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.