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Round the Cloisters: 49 Anglican Cathedrals in England & Wales & the Isle of Man by Mick Escott

July 11, 2015

rtcIt’s a nice idea – to visit all the cathedrals and write chatty accounts about them and the nearby pubs and coffee shops.

The Anglican world is a small world because I know several of the people listed in the author’s acknowledgements.

Of special mention is Keith Jukes ‘a most engaging man’ who had been vicar of Selby Abbey and took over as Dean of Ripon after a previous dean had left under a cloud. Keith had been in the same university hall of residence as me but died soon after this book was written of a nasty cancer.

I enjoyed reading the comment by Canon (Nev. The Rev.) Boundy, ‘You get seven years’ bad luck if you set fire to a vicar.’

Guildford fingernailsI also liked the comment about Guildford cathedral’s stone work being ‘puke pink.’ He doesn’t mention, however, regarding an exhibition which included a recording of carols, the dirty fingernails of the choirboy on the cover. Nor does he mention the oft repeated comment that it is more like ‘Guildford Crematorium.’

I liked Giles Fraser’s comment about Dean Colin Slee of Southwark: My favourite Colin Slee story involves his campaign against swingers’ sex club that opened just a few yards from Southwark Cathedral. In his office, Colin had rows of box files marked ” Club Wicked”. He was gathering the evidence that he needed to the place down – which is what he eventually did… In the course of this campaign, he hired a couple of private investigators to into the club one night and record what they saw. That particular evening had a costume theme. To those who frequented Club Wicked , that meant leather and rubber bondage gear. But the private investigators thought it meant fancy dress. They turned as two of the three Musketeers. I would often tease him this… At the lunchtime Eucharist on the day he died, a hundred people turned up at the Cathedral to mourn his loss. Some went to the pub afterwards. “He made the church colder place, he made the church a warmer place,” one priest mentioned with a smile. Why colder? Because he was always trying to save money in the cash-strapped cathedral by turning off the heating. Why warmer? That is easy. His was a gospel of welcome and inclusion for all

Surely this is wrong about Mervyn Stockwood: it was there, at All Saints’, Clifton, later destroyed in the Second World War, that Mervyn discovered the liturgical delights of Anglo-Catholicism, and where he was later to spend 19 years as curate…


Not so, he was curate on the other side of the city at Moorfields.


I liked this: Prostitutes are not tolerated in London except in one street, Cock Lane. Hence Londoners and visitors resort to the stews of Southwark, on the other side of the river. Here men may eat and drink, have a hot scented bath and spend time in female company. In 1374 there are eighteen establishments, all run by Flemish women. Contrary to what you might expect, there is little or no stigma attached to those who frequent the stews: there are few sexually contracted diseases and the marriage vows only require fidelity of the female partner*; the man null do as he pleases. Some clergymen rail against such immoral of course; but few directly allude to Southwark. Most of bath houses are rented from the bishop of Winchester.

(* Not so – the man promises to ‘forsake all others’)

I liked the idea of a ringtone on a mobile that had a peal of bells – I must investigate (Someone on General Synod had ‘Jesu joy of man’s desiring’ – I want that too.).

He should have done a bit more research – he mentions a ‘curious pulpit’ in the refectory at Chester and wonders ‘if it was used often.’ Well, of course, it would have been used daily as the monks had spiritual readings while they ate.

I enjoyed his description of the loathsome Bishop George Cassidy as ‘condescending’.

Also Choral Evensong sung by the girls’ choir at St. Alban’s: the two readings caused consternation Deuteronomy 10: 12 to end) included the words ‘circumcise’ – and the second (Ephesians 5: 1-14) ‘fornication’ and `wordmongers.’ Were they suitable for those young girls?’ I doubted if those sopranos and contraltos had even been listening.

I was intrigued by the thought that Llandaff and Bristol dioceses might have been combined. That would have made disestablishment difficult for the Church in Wales.

I liked the sign, outside the Gents’ loo at Wakefield, ‘Please close the door. Cold air in this area puts the organ out of tune.’

Bu he can’t be right in saying that a woman wore a ‘grey surplice’. Surplices are always white. Does he mean a cassock? A few pages later we hear of men in red cassocks.

The author is up to speed on the oddities amongst the bishops, not least Graham Dow who embarrassed most people by referring to some floods as God’s punishment for the legalisation of homosexuality – the one ship in Carlisle which was not flooded, because it was at the top of a hill, was owned by gay men.

The Bishop of Wakefield regarded this as his last job. Little did he know that a new superdiocese enveloping Wakefield would prompt him to move back into parish ministry.

I enjoyed the mention of of the t-shirt an Australian barman was wearing at a pub-near-farm I had patronized in Somerset. ‘Animals — I love `em. They’re delicious.’ That was on the front. Turning round, he displayed: `Kill ’em and grill ’em.’

I reckon that the author is a nice bloke whose company I’d enjoy but I didn’t like the way he distinguished between ‘the homeless’ and ‘the public’ at Sheffield.

I was irritated by the redundant use of the word ‘service’ as in ‘Evensong service’, ‘Eucharist service.’ Also when he talked about a ‘communion service ‘evensong’ at a Roman Catholic (Liverpool Cathedral – surely that is mass and vespers.

Uninteresting and long-winded poetry is used to pad out some sections. Also recipes.

He describes Liverpool well but surely Derek Warlock, as an RC bishop can never be descried as ‘evangelical.’

Melvyn Matthews, at Wells, suddenly becomes Mervyn.

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From → Church History

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