CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST AND ST MARY
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Statutory Address:
- CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST AND ST MARY, COLLEGE GREEN
- Statutory Address:
- CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST AND ST MARY, COLLEGE STREET
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- Statutory Address:
- CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST AND ST MARY, COLLEGE GREEN
- Statutory Address:
- CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST AND ST MARY, COLLEGE STREET
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Worcester (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SO 85002 54520
SO8554NW COLLEGE STREET 620-1/17/1 Cathedral Church of St Mary 22/05/54 (Formerly Listed as: Cathedral Church of Christ and St Mary)
Cathedral Church, formerly Benedictine Priory. Crypt from 1084, some remains of same date in W transept and first 2 bays West end of nave. West transept and part of 2 bays at west end of nave c1175. Choir, east transept, Lady Chapel, presbytery, 1224-1250. Nave with aisles 1317-1377; central tower from 1374, and north porch from 1386, substantial restoration 1857-1863, by AE Perkins and GG Scott. Few medieval designers are identified, but include Alexander the Mason c1224-1240 (nave west bays), William Shockerwick, c1317-1324 (nave north arcade), and John Clyve, 1376/77 (nave south arcade and central tower).
MATERIALS: construction mainly in Highly and Alveley sandstones, with some Cotswold oolite, and Purbeck marble, many of the vault panels are in tufa, roof slate, including Penrhyn slate.
PLAN: east end includes substantial remains of the early crypt, formerly with radial chapels and outer ambulatory. Principal church has 9-bay nave and aisles with deep north porch and a single bay chapel also on north side. West transept and east transept, both without aisles, 4-bay choir with aisles, 3-bay Lady Chapel, and 2-bay Chapel of St John, central crossing tower. South of the nave are the cloister, with Chapter House and former frater (now King's School Hall qv)).
EXTERIOR: exterior of the cathedral was very largely refaced during C19 restoration work, and both central tower and eastern arm substantially restructured or refaced - the sandstones used being relatively soft, and subject to reject rapid weatherings. However, original medieval detail remains in most areas. The gables are coped, and parapets are mostly plain, with saddle-back weathered copings and a lower string course, the northwest transept is an exception. The following description will begin at the west end and work to the east.
NAVE - WEST END: central gable over 3 tall rectangular lights and a very large 8-light 'Decorated' window of the C19, flanked by square buttresses surmounted by octagonal turrets with open pinnacles. The big west door, also of C19 but with some remnants of Norman work, has a high gable breaking into the bottom part of the window. To each side the aisle terminations with square corner turrets to octagonal pinnacles, and each with a round-arched light with later tracery above a large 4-light window.
NAVE - NORTH SIDE: first 2-bays of the clerestory have round-arched lights with tracery, in masonry of various dates, remainder are small 3-light with stopped drips in flat 4-centred arches. The aisle, right of the porch, has a 3-light pointed then a 3-light with stepped transoms, and with straight-sided arch. These bays with heavy flying buttresses, supporting a wall of early masonry in small blocks. 2 further bays having simpler 3-light to cusped heads in pointed arches. Bay 5 has the bold square 2-bay porch with almost plain flanks, and rich north front, rebuilt by Scott, and having statues by Redfern. Interior is vaulted, and inner door, flanked by Norman responds, has a narrow Dec cusped head above the C19 doors set in plain masonry to a very flat basket arch. Left of the porch are 2 bays with 3-light Dec windows under small rectangular lights, with deep buttress between, then the single bay projecting chapel with corner buttresses and large 3-light to the North wall. Beyond this is a further aisle bay.
NAVE - SOUTH SIDE: the first 2-bays are similar to those to the North, incorporating older masonry, then 7 clerestory bays with 3-light windows to straight-sided arches and stopped drips, and two flying buttresses. The aisle has two 2-light traceried rectangular windows to each bay, but one 3-light in the arches, set deep with broad casement mould, and with stopped drips. Plain square buttresses divide the bays. At the lower level is the north walk of the cloister (qv).
WEST TRANSEPT - NORTH ARM: the high gabled north wall has 3 small rectangular lights above a prominent horizontal string, then a large C19 Decorated 4-light window to sill string, carried round to the returns. To each side is a square turret with nook shafting, crowned by tall octagonal turrets with pinnacles. The W and E sides have two 4-light in Mannerist panelling including ogee heads and with a crenellated parapet. The east side also has a deep 4-light with transom and 4-centred head.
SOUTH ARM: this differs greatly in detail from the north arm, having an 'Early English' plate tracery window in the south wall, below the high gable with rectangular lights, and to heavy octagonal corner turrets without pinnacles. The west side has a small 4-light in panelling as to the north, then a very long 4-light with 2 transoms, all this set to masonry of widely varied dates. The east side has a high rectangular window in a larger 4-centred opening, and weathered offset at sill level, below are roofs of ancillary buildings. The bold crossing tower rises to 59.7m (169ft), and has 4 identical faces. It is in 2 stages, with a lofty 8-bay Perp blind arcade below two large 2-buttresses with pinnacles rise to tall octagonal main pinnacles, linked by 7-bay traceried parapets to a horizontal coping. Although substantially rebuilt in the C19, the medieval detail has been convincingly retained. The eastern arm externally is mainly C19 work, it has plain coped parapets carried on a continuous corbel-table of tri-lobed arches, and windows are generally formed in pale limestone contrasting with the sandstone walling. The east end has 5 above 5 lancets, the upper row stepped, and a large open trefoil in the gable, all flanked by square buttresses crowned by open octagonal turrets with plain pinnacles, these are repeated on the gable ends of the east transept. The east end has a single bay return with a single lancet at 2 levels, then the ends of the Lady Chapel aisles. The main body has stepped in a containing arch at aisle level, with triple lancets to the 2-bay chapel on the south side. On the north side of the choir is a very large ground level flying buttress below the original flying buttress. The transepts have triple lancets at 2 levels, the upper one stepped, and on the returns a similar configuration in the first bay with a single small lancet above the aisles. Square buttresses with weathered heads have small nook shafts.
INTERIOR: the description begins with the earliest unit - the crypt, then proceeds from east to west. The crypt - the central vessel is in 4 aisles with apsidal end, small monolithic columns with square bases and cushion capitals carry plastered groined vaults with broad transverse arches, with a central and 2 outer rows. This is contained within thick walls with attached half-columns in bedded stone, and arched doorways to outer aisles, also with a central row of columns and responds. Remains of a south side chapel are at the west end, with early stairs to the west transept, and a C20 stair flight gives access at the east end, adjacent to Prince Arthur's Chapel, here also are some excavated remains of a former pentagonal chapel, including some early wall painting. The church is stone vaulted throughout, principally ribbed quadripartite, and neither plastered nor painted except to the East arm. Floors are generally C19 black and white marble. Nave, choir and Lady Chapel are in three storeys, with aisles. The east arm makes extensive use of Purbeck marble, main arcades carry richly moulded arches, those to the choir with some embellishment, and wider than in the Lady Chapel. The triforium above a Purbeck string, is in paired double lights with varied carved spandrel figures, in front of a simpler continuous blind arcade which is carried through in an independent rhythm. The clerestory, also above a Purbeck string, has a triple stepped opening with Purbeck shafts, and wall passage. The vault, with a longitudinal ridge rib, retains the C19 Hardman painted decoration, and is carried on Purbeck shafts taken down to the level of the arcade capitals. The shallow single bay sanctuary to the Lady Chapel has tall lancets at two levels, on three sides. The aisles have simple quadripartite vaulting, and wall arcading in the eastern half and east transept. In the east transept the 3 storey treatment is carried into the first bay, with 2 level lancets in the outer bay and the end walls, all with an inner Purbeck screen and wall passage. The east crossing piers have banded Purbeck shafts to the full height. The main crossing has tall unbroken multi-shaft piers carrying pointed arches in four orders, and crowned by an unusual lierne vault, plastered and painted. West transept reflects continuous growth and alteration from the time of Wulfstan to the C19, with a mix of masonry, and occasional remnants of detail built into the walls. Both arms have ribbed vaults with diagonal and ridge ribs, with some liernes in the south arm, the joints in the severy panels are very prominent. In each arm the east wall retains a bold Norman arch with the 2-bay St John's Chapel, which was part of the great 1224 extension. The upper parts of these walls include rectilinear inner screening to windows. The west walls have much plain masonry, with sharply cut rectilinear blind panelling above the aisle arches. In the NW corner of the north arm is a prominent circular stair turret from early work, but the large window is C19. This arm contains many wall monuments. The south arm has a triple lancet to its south wall. The nave, with a single tierceron rib in addition to the diagonals and ridges also have prominent joints to the panels. Arcade piers are multi-shafted, some of these taken full height on the Sough side, and detail varies slightly between the two arcades, the south being completed some decades later than the north. Triforia have paired double lights, with very varied carved spandrel figures, there is no wall passage in the normal way, but bays are entered from doorways in the roof spaces. The clerestory has a wall passage, and stepped triple inner arcade. In the first bay adjoining the crossing there are prominent flying buttresses carried through clerestory and triforium levels, these inserted to stabilise the central tower. The 2 west bays have a lower arcade, and transitional detail, with paired triple round-arched openings embellished with chevron and rosettes, under pointed arches, and mixed pointed and round arches to the clerestory inner screen, at the pier junction between old and new bays is some two-coloured stonework of Wulfstan's original build. The large west window is richly glazed in small scale biblical stories. The nave north aisle has simple vaulting, but the south is an unusual combination of quadripartite design plus sets of longitudinal and transverse lierne ribs except for the two west bays. The walls are almost filled with monuments, including in the south side some deep recesses. On the north side the single bay Jesus Chapel is enclosed by a decorative stone screen of the late C19. The entrance from the north porch is provided with a large internal draught lobby. Above the south aisle for its full length is the Cathedral Library, with heavy roof timbers adjusted when new shelving was inserted in the C18. Parts of 2 flying buttresses show within the space, and at the west end the floor is lower, over the Norman bays.
FITTINGS, MONUMENTS, AND STAINED GLASS: Most internal fittings are of the later C19, many by G G Scott, including the bishop's throne, choir reredos, choir stalls (but incorporating late C14 misericords and choir screens, including main open ironwork screen under the crossing arch, organ cases, and the nave pulpit. The chancel pulpit is an octagonal design of 1642, much restored by Scott. There is a 3-bay repositioned C15 stone screen on the North side of the retrochoir, and two openwork iron screens by Skidmore. The nave lectern with gilt angel is a Hardman design, and the font, at the west end of the nave south aisle, is by G F Bodley. Although fragments of C14 glass remain in some windows of the nave south aisle, most is of the C19, principally by Hardman, including the great window and the main lancets, the large window in the north wall of the west transept is by Lavers and Barraud, as is that in the east bay of the nave North aisle,of 1862, and according to Pevsner 'The best Victorian glass in the cathedral...'. Of special historic interest is a fine memorial 3-light window to Sir Edward Elgar, in the second bay of the nave north aisle (above a C16 monument of the kneeling figure of Lady Abigail, mother to Bishop Goldisburgh). The cathedral is very rich in commemorative monuments, both free-standing and wall-mounted, including work by Nollekens, Robert Adam, Chantrey, and Westmacott Junior. They are too numerous to be detailed here, but Pevsner (op cit) includes many of them in his description. Outstanding is the chantry chapel to Prince Henry, of 1504. This is a very elegant fine stone 'casket' on the south side of the main sanctuary, in lacy open stonework with delicate cresting and pinnacles, it has a complex flat lierne vault with pendants, and very rich stone reredos with many figures and complex canopies: these were defaced and plastered over, but when rescued, much of the detail is seen to remain. On its south side, towards the east transept, the chapel is on two levels, with an intermediate band of shields and other devices in blank panelling, above 2 recesses containing earlier recumbent figures of the Giffard family. Other major monuments include the splendid recumbent effigy to King John, centred below the sanctuary steps, Bishops Walter de Cantelupe and William de Blois in the Lady Chapel sanctuary, the chest tomb to Sir Griffith Ryce, 1523, with very fine in-situ brass top, in the SE transept, Sir John Beauchamp, executed by the 'merciless parliament' in 1388 - a splendid painted chest tomb on a medieval base, and Robert Wylde, 1607/08 (sic), a large multi-coloured chest tomb, these last two in the N and S arcade of the nave, respectively, fourth bay from the crossing. In the eighth bay, near the W end, the large free-standing early Renaissance monuments to Bishop Thornborough, 1641 (N side) and Dean Eades, 1596 (S side) are especially notable. In the N chancel aisle, opposite the Prince Arthur chantry are 2 early monuments, both of early design, with recumbent figures in recesses, of interest since they, with adjacent walling, were left 'unrestored' by Scott, to demonstrate the general state of the building before that action. Among wall monuments some of the more striking are: Bishop Isaac Maddox, 1697-1759, in white and grey marble, with a great urn and weeping supporters over an extended inscription, and Bishop Hough, a Roubiliac design of 1746, in the NW transept and choir aisle, Dean Stillingfleet, 1599, in white marble on a gadrooned base, in the N wall of this transept, Nicholas Billington, 1576, with an esoteric selection of elements, to the right of Jesus Chapel, John Moore, 1615, with his wife Ann and six kneeling figures, with late gothic vaulting over an early Renaissance design (nave, N aisle, to left of porch). The nave S aisle has a whole series of interesting monuments, including Bishop Blandford, 1675, a bold Baroque design, a recessed tomb chest of 1428 to Judge Littleton, and in the next bay to Bishop Henry Parry, 1616 - this under a medieval canopy, with cusping and mouchettes. Of special local interest is the modest white marble tablet on the W wall of the NW transept to Mrs Henry Wood, 1814/1887, author of the Victorian 'best seller' East Lynn.
HISTORY: Worcester in the Middle Ages was an unusually large diocese, including, for instance, both Gloucester and Bristol, it was also unusual in that its Saxon Bishop, Wulfstan, remained in power after the Norman takeover, and it was during his episcopate that the earliest extant parts of the current cathedral - the crypt, nave and W transept - were established. Subsequent Gothic phases were conditioned by the pre-existing work, but the E arm was greatly extended - including a second transept, peculiar to English cathedrals - in the C13, so that the central tower lies almost exactly half-way in the 130m (425ft) length of the structure. Rich in architectural detailing and containing a large number of monuments, both free-standing and as wall tablets, the building has frequently undergone restoration or reconstruction because the soft sandstone used weathers so quickly. Substantial new work, including replacement of window designs, was undertake in the C17 and C18, much damage having been caused also by Parliamentarians, but a major restoration, including replacement of window designs of appropriate type, was effected in the C19. The location is enhanced by its setting by the Severn, but in the C20 the town has been cut off visually and practically by the principal traffic route passing diagonally across the N and E sides of the building. The Pevsner description was written before the later excavation revealed the details of radial chapels to the crypt. (P Barker: A Short Architectural History of Worcester Cathedral: 1994-; MEDIEVAL ART AND ARCHITECTURE AT WORCESTER CATHEDRAL: 1978-; J Harvey: English Mediaeval Architects: 1954-; N Pevsner: The Buildings of England, Worcestershire: 1968-).
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Books and journals
Medieval Art and Architecture at Worcester Cathedral, (1954)
Harvey, J , English Medieval Architects, (1984)
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Worcestershire, (1968)
Barker, P, 'Worcester Cathedral Publications' in A Short Architectural History of Worcester Cathedral, (1994)
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing