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Minster expects a royal guest


A member of the Royal family is expected to attend a service of thanksgiving at Southwell Minster in the autumn.

The service is one of many events this year to mark the 900th anniversary of the church as we see it today.

The Dean of Southwell, the Very Rev John Guille, said the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Sir Andrew Buchanan, would invite a Royal and was confident one would attend. The date of the service has not yet been set.

The dean said restoration work on the central tower was due to finish in April. He said this was a symbol for all the work carried out over the years.

He said all the people who had made the restoration and repairs possible, such as scaffolders, stonemasons, carpenters and architects, would be invited to the service.

“This is not the biggest cathedral in the world but I have to remind myself regularly that some people would have lived in hovels 900 years ago, yet they were still capable of building something like this,” the dean said.

“Imagine coming over the hill and seeing this huge building when you live in one room with cows in the corner.”

The dean said children who visited the minster for Time Travelling, an educational activity for primary children, were often overwhelmed when they first went inside.

He said: “It is fascinating when you think of the scale of buildings in the world today and experiences they have had and coming here is a jaw-dropping experience.”

The dean said events to mark the anniversary would continue into spring next year because the minster’s diary was so full.

The programme would take place alongside regular services and events, such as Rogation Sunday, the Queen’s Birthday service, the Scouts’ St George’s Day service, concerts and exhibitions.

“It is an opportunity to make friends and build friendships throughout the diocese and the county. It is a catalyst for opening doors,” he said.

A thanksgiving service on April 3 will be attended by the Archbishop of York, the Right Rev John Sentamu, and will mark the rebuilding of the Minster School and two other church schools in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.

The archbishop will visit each school before the service, at 1.30pm.

Plans for the anniversary did not start until after the dean, who took over from the Very Rev David Leaning, was installed last September.

He said the Chapter was co-ordinating the programme and each event had been delegated to committees.

About 2,000 calendars containing dates of some of the events have been sent to members of the Friends of Southwell Cathedral, staff at the Minster School, and to representatives of every parish in the diocese.

A flower festival, in association with the Advertiser Group Newspapers, will take place from August 22-25.

The chairman of the flower festival is Mrs Jenny Mellors, of Church Street, Southwell.

A festival has been held at the minster every eight years since a celebration, in 1984, to mark the 100th anniversary of the diocese of Southwell, which has since added Nottingham to its name.

Mrs Mellors has been involved with all the flower festivals, which are on the August bank holiday weekend, and was vice-chairman of the festival in 2000.

Mrs Mellors hoped between 8,000 and 10,000 people would attend.

She said about 250 flower arrangers would create up to 200 arrangements, from small posies to 12ft pieces.

The arrangers are from Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and are members of the North Midlands Area of the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies.

Mrs Mellors said there would also be music, a children’s day, refreshments, activities, floral arrangement demonstrations in the Great Hall and a lecture.

Up to eight bishops and their spouses from Africa will stay in Southwell before the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury in July.

Three bishops from the Diocese of Natal and one from Mombasa have confirmed.

They will attend evensong in the minster on July 13 at 3.30pm. There will then be a meal where they will share their experiences.

A service for those who were married in the minster will take place on June 7.

The Lincoln Mystery Plays will take place in July. People who were baptised and christened in the minster will be invited to a service on October 11.

The dean said there had already been interest from people who wanted to attend the two services.

He said the minster was known for its choral tradition and special concerts would also be held.

He said clergy in prisons, hospitals, schools and the armed forces would be invited on a separate occasion.

Representatives from the parishes and deaneries will be invited to visit and tour the minster.

There are also plans to invite teachers and governors from more than 70 church schools.

This year marks 900 years of Southwell Minster as it appears today.

After a decision in 1108, work on the nave began in 1120, although there is evidence of Christian activity in Southwell almost 2,000 years ago.

The Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD brought much change, and the discovery of a Roman Christian font near Southwell shows that Christianity was present before the Romans left Britain in 410AD.

In 627 it is recorded that Paulinus, the missionary archbishop of York, was baptising believers in the River Trent. He is said to have visited Southwell and founded a church. This legend is commemorated in the minster’s baptistry window.

In 956 King Eadwig gave a gift of land at Southwell to Oskytel, Archbishop of York, and a minster church was established.

Apart from the tessellated floor, the only remaining piece of this Saxon church is the 11th Century lintel over the doorway in the north transept.

The Normans were great builders and rebuilders of churches, and in 1108 a decision was made to rebuild the minster.

As was usual, building started at the east end so the high altar could be used as soon as possible. The earlier Saxon building was taken down as work progressed, and much of the original stone was re-used.

Work on the nave began in 1120 and the building was completed by about 1150.

In 1234, the Norman Quire was considered too small and was replaced by the present early English Gothic masterpiece.

The Chapter House, renowned as one of the finest in an English cathedral, was created in 1286, and completed the church.

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