ELHAS Meeting Report - April 2010

Over forty members and guests attended the April meeting when Eric Wright, President of Rothwell Historical Society, gave an illustrated talk about the history of York Minster. He was supported in his endeavours by Simon Bulmer, secretary of R.H.S., who operated the laptop and projector.

Eric, a retired railway man, has had a fascination with cathedrals since his first visit to Canterbury Cathedral in 1960. He has since visited every cathedral in the land, but maintains that York Minster is the finest of them all. Simon has been involved with RHS since 1997 when he answered an advert in the Rothwell Record seeking a secretary for the society - and the rest as they say is history.

Eric began his talk by giving a brief history of Christianity in the North of England before embarking on the history of York Minster itself. He explained that the Minster is officially called St Peter of York and that the Archbishop of York holds the title of Primate of England, whilst the Archbishop of Canterbury is named the Primate of All England. York is designated a Minster, not a cathedral since it has a history of teaching, and in fact was once a monastery. The gothic Minster is built of magnesium limestone quarried at nearby Tadcaster, and is 481 feet long and 205 feet wide. It is in fact the biggest gothic church in northern Europe. The present building was commissioned in 1220 by Walter Grey and is based on the design of the original church. Eric accompanied his beautiful pictures of the Minster by an interesting and informative commentary which included some hitherto unknown facts such as there being no seating in the nave of the Minster prior to 1863. Until then 'The Common Man' stood, or sat on the floor. We were also intrigued to hear that during the Second World War, many of the stained glass windows were removed and buried on the North Yorkshire Moors for safekeeping. But the most amazing fact to a generation of Blue Peter viewers was that after the devastating fire in 1984, which destroyed the roof of the South Transept, the bosses in the roof were designed by the winner of a Blue Peter competition, and to coin a phrase from the programme, in this case it was not an example of 'one which was made earlier'.
We were also delighted to see some superb pictures of the Five Sisters Window which was adopted as a memorial to the women of the British Empire who lost their lives during World War One. This has a special significance for us since the names of the victims of the explosion at the Barnbow Munitions factory are recorded there.
Eric's talk was extremely well received and afterwards both he and Simon joined members and guests in our annual pie and pea supper.

The next meeting on June 28th will be a talk by Betty Smithson on the history of Seacroft Hospital.