Sheffield Cathedral

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October, 2016

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The cathedral is the oldest surviving building in Sheffield still in use, with parts dating from the C12th. Set behind the main shopping area, the church of St Peter and St Paul was originally the parish church before becoming the cathedral for the newly created diocese of Sheffield in 1914.

The first church is thought to have been built as a satellite of Worksop Priory, at the opposite end of the town to the now demolished Sheffield Castle. Shortly after it was built, the church burnt down and was replaced. This was rebuilt around 1430 in the perpendicular style of architecture with a central tower and spire. The Shrewsbury Chapel was added in the C16th as the family vault of the Earls of Shrewsbury. The hammer beam roof in the chancel dates from then. St Katherine’s Chapel is C18th and there was a major restoration in the C19th.

The crypt, St George’s Chapel and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit were added in the 1930s when there were plans to radically realign the building. They were intended to be the new chancel for the cathedral. Funding and the Second World War led to these plans being abandoned. The very modern looking west end of the cathedral was added in the 1960s. The glorious stained glass of the lantern tower dates from 1998/9.

Entry is through the shop into the majestic west end of the cathedral. This is more impressive on the inside with its very simple lines. The modern stainless steel font is here and there is a small heritage interpretation centre.

The west end was rebuilt with a lantern tower in the 1960s to allow more light into the building. Looking up, this is a stunning structure. The wood star represents Christ’s crown of thorns. The colours of the abstract stained glass symbolise humanity’s struggle and conflict (blue and violet) transformed through the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit (gold and red) into healing and growth (green). This really is one of the best bits of the building.

The nave was substantially rebuilt in the C19th and previous roof lines can be seen above the crossing. The tall and slender arcade pillars end in battlemented capitals. Between the arches are shields.

The highly carved oak pulpit has Jesus the Good Shepherd, the four apostles and Moses with the Ten Commandments. On the handrail are the figures of St Peter and St Paul.

The side aisles have C19th stained glass and memorials to the great and good. The C20th window of Sheffield Worthies was originally on the north wall of Old St George’s Chapel but moved to its present position on the east wall of the north transept in the 1960s. It depicts soldiers and benefactors of the church from the last Saxon Lord of the Manor (top left) to the Parliamentarian Governor of Sheffield Castle after its surrender in the Civil War (bottom right).

The Chancel was built in the early C15th but includes many recycled stones from the original church. The lovely hammer beam ceiling with its angels dates from then, although the wings were added in the 1960s.

The east window is a memorial to the C19th newspaper editor, social reformer and anti-slavery campaigner, James Montgomery. On the north wall of the sanctuary are memorials to three former vicars. One of them, James Wilkinson, famously refused permission for John Wesley to preach in the church.

The splendidly gilded bishop’s chair has the figures of St Peer and St Paul with Christ. The chancel and Shrewsbury chapel to the south are separated by a stone arcade. Under an arch is the splendid tomb of George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury with his two wives, Anne and Elizabeth. He was responsible for building the Shrewsbury Chapel as a private family chapel with a burial vault for the Talbot family beneath.

On the opposite wall is the memorial to George, 6th Earl, who was the fourth husband of Bess of Hardwick and custodian of Mary Queen of Scots. The long Latin inscription details all his duties noting ‘much expenditure’ on his part. Bess is not buried here but in Derby Cathedral.

The ceiling has lovely carved and gilded bosses. The reredos dates from 1935 and has Christ in the centre surrounded by saints, St Catherine can be seen holding the wheel she was tortured on.

On the north side of the chancel is St Katherine’s Chapel which was built in the C18th, replacing a wooden shed on the site. It originally housed Sheffield’s only fire engine and was later the vestry. It became a chapel as part of the 1930s alterations, in memory of the wife of the first Bishop of Sheffield. It celebrates the ministry of women in the Church of England. This is reflected in the east window which includes the monogram of the Mother’s Union. The 1967 stained glass window on the north wall depicts the ‘Works of Charity’ from the New Testament.

St George’s Chapel reached up stairs off the north aisle, was added in the 1930s and was intended to be the new sanctuary for the cathedral. It is now the memorial chapel for the York and Lancaster Regiment. The ‘Sheffield Pals’ formed the 12th Battalion and many of them were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The screen of swords and bayonets was given to the Cathedral by the York and Lancaster Regiment after its disbandment. The swords which point upwards signify readiness to serve whilst the bayonets pointing downwards represent the laying aside of weapons. The wooden stalls are carved with some of the names of those who died. The lovely stained glass windows depict important episodes in the Regiment’s history and its campaigns.

Beneath the chapel is the Crypt dedicated to All Saints and again dating from the 1930s. It is the first purpose-built crypt in an English Cathedral for the storage of ashes. Names engraved on the stone walls include some of the most significant people in the Cathedral and city’s history.

Beyond St George’s Chapel is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Built in the 1930s, it was intended to be the Lady Chapel. Again it is very different to the medieval cathedral with whitewashed walls and stone ribs across the ceiling. The wooden stalls along the walls with their canopies were designed by Sir Ninian Comper. The lovely stained glass window has Christ in Glory surrounded by prophets and martyrs with the white dove of the Holy Spirit at the top.

The Cathedral is open daily from 8-5pm, except Saturdays when it is open 9.30-4. There is no entry charge. The coffee shop is open 10-4 weekdays and 10-3 on Saturdays. There is no parking by the cathedral and the nearest car park in on Campo Lane. The post code is S1 1HA and the grid reference is SK 354875.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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