The Eagle and Child, the Elephant and Castle, the Angel, the Lion, the Stag and the Unicorn – not a list of public houses located in and around Manchester, but some of the misericords in Manchester Cathedral, dating from the very early sixteenth century and amongst the finest in England. Misericords, those carved images found under the choir stalls, offer glances of the ordinary, the real, the imagined, and the fantastic. They highlight hidden worlds and tell tales from the edge; they are the wooden equivalent of the marginalia in illuminated manuscripts. This chapter offers an analysis of the misericords of Manchester, describing the carvings and providing a context in which to understand the images and their meanings.
This chapter provides the first comprehensive account of the role of music in the life of Manchester Collegiate Church and Cathedral from the fifteenth century to the present. Provision for music was made from the start, and early documents list four clerks and six choristers among its officers. Evidence for what the choir sang is limited until well into the nineteenth century. No choir or organ book is known to have survived, and information rests on chance references and sporadic music publications. From 1863, when the Precentor’s Registers begin, the situation was transformed. From then on all music performed at each service is identified, and the result is a record, unique to this Cathedral, of what was actually sung. With the twentieth century came a sense that the Cathedral was taking stock, both of itself and its relationships with the city of Manchester and beyond; the twenty-first century is concerned with renewal: and at every stage music is involved. As a result, provision for music, be it musicians, instruments, or repertoire, can be seen as a mirror to this institution. Though driven in part by its own aesthetic, music presents an acutely sensitive indicator of an institution’s health, wealth, standing, relationships, and liturgical proclivities – and through it can be traced the changes to each.
This chapter examines the history and architecture of the parish church before it was made into a Collegiate Church, assessing the archaeological and manuscript evidence. It explores the evidence for the first dating of the church, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book as St Mary. Between the turn of the thirteenth century and the middle of the fourteenth, successive phases of building transformed the earlier church into a substantial structure probably equalling the present Cathedral in length. The rebuilding of the church is reflected in the revenue of the benefice by this period. Manchester was a large parish, covering sixty square miles and later containing thirty townships. By the thirteenth century, the surroundings of the church were also being transformed as Manchester developed as a place of economic importance. One reason given for the foundation of the Collegiate Church in 1421 was the neglect of the parish by absentee rectors or their appointees. The decline of the Hanging Ditch into a rubbish dump on the church’s own doorstep may itself reflect the lack of a strong clerical authority in those preceding years.
Manchester Cathedral’s internal fittings include an important and growing collection of modern stained glass, all of it dating from the 1960s onwards. This chapter sets the scene for the collection, describing each of the windows containing stained glass and considering future opportunities. It is to Antony Hollaway (1928– 2000) that the credit belongs for the chief glory of Manchester’s stained glass: a suite of five windows at the west end of the Cathedral that were installed in the period 1972 to 1995. The scheme across the west wall windows includes three that mark the triple dedication of the former collegiate church in 1421 to saints George, Mary, and Denys, and these three are flanked to south and north by two further depictions, of the Creation and of Revelation. There are recognizable forms and symbols within complex designs that reward constant return, coupled with exquisite control of many hundreds of pieces of glass.
This chapter draws attention to the important but often overlooked role of portraits as sources for the early modern historian of both the family and religion. It offers a new close reading of the portrait known as Sir Thomas Aston at the Deathbed of his Wife (1635) by the artist John Souch. Portraits such as this one, commissioned in the generations after the English Reformation, lie at the intersection of the family, its life cycles and its social and confessional identity. It is argued that this portrait was simultaneously an expression of personal and private grief at multiple family deaths and a public affirmation of familial faith. It was intended both to bring comfort to the living while also inviting its audiences to engage in spiritual reflection and contemplation on their own mortality. While the focus of the chapter is on the portrait itself as a primary source, it is placed in the wider context of Sir Thomas Aston’s life, particularly his national role as a defender of traditional aspects of the Church of England and the part he played as an ardent royalist in the English civil war.
In 1656 Menasseh Ben Israel wrote a petition on behalf of ‘The Hebrews at Present Reziding in this citty of London’ which pleaded for, alongside the freedom to worship in their own houses, a place to bury their dead. The right to be buried according to their own faith, in a suitable environment set aside for the purpose, was central to the informal re-establishment of Jewish congregations in England, allowing the maintenance of communal identity and a strengthening of links to the wider diaspora. This chapter explores how the London Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities established the means to care for their dead and dying in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in turn how the dead, through the use of charitable bequests in their wills, and examples of pious lives lived, continued to care for the community left behind. By making use of institutional records, burial records, wills and gravestone inscriptions, it shows how appropriate management of the death of an individual was important to the religious identity of the collective and, by extension, that the establishment of distinct burial grounds and traditions for a congregation early in its own life cycle set concrete foundations for envisaged future generations.
One life cycle event – the wedding – is central to the structure of many Restoration comedies, so marriage is a theme that is rarely out of sight. Although the comedies have positive things to say about marriage, there is also a darker side. This reflects the unsettled attitudes to marriage in the late Stuart period, when changes in the political, religious and social spheres brought debates about authority and morality in their wake. Anticlericalism runs deep in these comedies and this chapter argues that the portrayals of clerical characters in the plays degrade not only the reputation of the clergy but also the institution of marriage itself. We see this degradation in what the clerics say about marriage, their inaction in the face of attacks on it by other characters, their acceptance of concepts such as adultery, bigamy and polygamy, and their portrayal as highly disreputable figures, some of whom strike at the heart of marriage by indulging in ‘stolen fruit’ with married women. This chapter sees the married folk in the plays entering an institution that is irretrievably tarnished, in part by the attitudes of the very people who will conduct the wedding ceremony.
On 29 August 1582, Richard Stonley, a civil servant in Westminster, noted in his diary that he had attended the christening of his grandson. After listing the guests at the event, he concluded the entry ‘with thankes to god for that Dayes worke’. Stonley’s description of the event as a type of work reveals the interconnected ways in which pre-modern individuals experienced their routine and spiritual lives. By examining Stonley’s everyday experiences, this chapter shows that life-cycle events and religious practices were not separate from, but rather deeply integrated within quotidian working life. Stonley’s diaries are peppered with references to religious and life-cycle events, including childbirth, deaths, burials, baptisms and weddings. The three surviving volumes of Stonley’s diaries date from the 1580s and 1590s, and they provide a detailed account of daily life in London and Essex in the late sixteenth century. This chapter examines the diaries as an important resource for scholars of the late sixteenth century. Drawing on anthropological methods of analysis and interpretation, it demonstrates how analysing archival sources for details of everyday life can enable a more nuanced understanding of how early modern individuals experienced the life-cycle events which took place within their social networks.
In eighteenth-century England an important part of mothering was preparing adolescent daughters for adult life, especially marriage and motherhood. Young women with the right social skills and upbringing would be more likely to make a good match. Mothers were encouraged to write letters to pass on their knowledge and experience to their daughters. These informal, familiar exchanges served a number of purposes, all contributing to the development of an ideal young woman. Formal schooling was increasingly seen as part of the process: here too mothers had a role to play in selecting the school and keeping an eye on progress. Opinion was divided on the kind of schooling appropriate for girls. For devout Catholic families wanting to secure the future of their faith, choices were constrained because of the continuing influence of penal laws against Catholicism. This chapter examines the rich correspondence surviving from the Jerningham family to examine decisions made for Charlotte, aged fourteen, who was sent to a convent school in Paris, and to study a mother–daughter relationship during the two years when they were separated, in order to consider the impact of religion on the adolescence of Charlotte Jerningham.
The introduction lays out the aim of the volume: to explore the intersections between religion and the passage of life in early modern England. The term ‘life cycle’ is interpreted broadly, to include rituals, sacraments and everyday observance; biological transition points such as birth and death; life stages such as childhood or adolescence; and the passage of time and the process of ageing. The interdisciplinary scope of the volume brings together chapters which examine how early modern people conceived of the relationship between faith and lived experience, and how religious practice both shaped and was influenced by the stages and passages of the life cycle in different textual and material forms. The book includes chapters on Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities, to encourage cross-confessional comparison between life stages and rites of passage which were of religious significance to those belonging to all faiths. In sum, it offers broader interpretations of the life cycle, religious practice and confessional identity than appear in existing studies in this area. At the same time, by positioning chapters from historians, art historians, and English literary scholars alongside each other, it consolidates a range of approaches and means of framing these events and practices.