Southwell Minster is a minster and cathedral, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England. It is situated six miles from Newark-on-Trent and thirteen miles from Mansfield. It is the seat of the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.
AD627 The earliest church on the site is believed to have been founded by Paulinus, the first Archbishop of York.
In 956 King Eadwig gave land in Southwell to Oskytel, Archbishop of York, on which a minster church was established.
1086 The Domesday Book recorded the Southwell manor in great detail.
1108 The Norman reconstruction of the church began, probably as a rebuilding of the Anglo-Saxon church, starting at the east end so that the high altar could be used as soon as possible.
The tessellated floor and late 11th century tympanum in the north transept are the only parts of the Anglo-Saxon building remaining intact.
Work on the nave began after 1120 and the church was completed by c.1150.
The church was originally attached to the Archbishop of York's Palace which stood next door and is now ruined. It served the archbishop as a place of worship and was a collegiate body of theological learning, hence its designation as a minster.
The Norman chancel was replaced with another in the Early English style in 1234 because it was too small.
The octagonal chapter house, built in 1286 with a vault in the Decorated Gothic style has naturalistic carvings of foliage.
The elaborately carved "pulpitum" or choir screen was built in 1350.
The church suffered less than many others in the English Reformation as it was refounded in 1543 by Act of Parliament.
Southwell is where Charles I was captured during the English Civil War. The fighting saw the church seriously damaged and the nave is said to have been used as stabling. The adjoining palace was almost completely destroyed, first by Scottish troops and then by the local people, with only the Hall of the Archbishop remaining as a ruined shell. The Minster's financial accounts show that extensive repairs were necessary after this period.
On 5 November 1711 the southwest spire was struck by lightning, and the resulting fire spread to the nave, crossing and tower destroying roofs, bells, clock and organ.
By 1720 repairs had been completed, now giving a flat panelled ceiling to the nave and transepts.
In 1805 Archdeacon Kaye gave the Minster the Newstead lectern; once owned by Newstead Abbey, it had been thrown into the Abbey fishpond by the monks to save it during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, then later discovered when the lake was dredged.
Henry Gally Knight in 1818 gave the Minster four panels of 16th century Flemish glass (which now fill the bottom part of the East window) which he had acquired from a Parisian pawnshop.
In danger of collapse, the spires were removed in 1805 and re-erected in 1879–81 when the minster was extensively restored by Ewan Christian, an architect specialising in churches. The nave roof was replaced with a pitched roof and the choir was redesigned and refitted.
Southwell Minster was served by prebendaries from the early days of its foundation. By 1291 there were 16 Prebends of Southwell mentioned in the Taxation Roll.
In 1540 the prebends and minster were suppressed but an act of Parliament in 1543 re-established the college and church collegiate of Southwell.
Under an Act of King Edward VI, the prebendaries were given pensions and their estates sold. The minster continued as the parish church on the petitions of the parishioners.
By an Act of Philip and Mary in 1557, the minster and its prebends were restored.
On 2 April 1585 a set of statutes was promulgated by Queen Elizabeth I and the chapter operated under this constitution until it was dissolved in 1841. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners made provision for the abolition of the chapter as a whole; the death of each canon after this time resulted in the extinction of his prebend. The chapter came to its appointed end on 12 February 1873 with the death of Thomas Henry Shepherd, rector of Clayworth and prebendary of Beckingham.
In 1884 Southwell Minster became a cathedral proper for Nottinghamshire and a part of Derbyshire including the city of Derby. The diocese was divided in 1927 and the Diocese of Derby was formed. The diocese's centenary was commemorated by a royal visit to hand out Maundy money.
George Ridding, the first Bishop of Southwell, designed and paid for the grant of Arms now used as the diocesan coat of arms. Its creation as a cathedral led to confusion concerning the civic status of Southwell.
The nave, transepts, central tower and two western towers of the Norman church which replaced the Saxon minster remain as an outstanding achievement of severe Romanesque design. The central tower's two ornamental stages place it high among England's surviving Norman towers. The nave is imposing, with cylindrical columns, large triforium arches and an unaltered clerestory with rows of round windows.
The choir is Early English in style. In the 14th century the choir screen and the chapter house were added. The polygonal chapter house and its vestibule comprise a Decorated masterpiece with sculptured detail including heads and naturalistic foliage, the latter being unsurpassed in England. There is the tomb of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York (died 1588).
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