Hi there everyone, my name is Jamie and I want to tell you about some of the experiences I had at Manchester Cathedral. I’m an MA History student and I’ve always been fascinated with ecclesiastical history, so when the opportunity to work at one of the oldest sites in Manchester popped up I was incredibly excited. I didn’t even know what kind of primary sources were available within the Cathedral archives, and when I opened the box containing a charter from King Henry V (dated 1421) I was literally speechless. It’s so cool to see a significant part of history right there in front of you, and it’s really a testament to how long the Cathedral has been a part of Manchester’s landscape. The archive itself is located behind this massive door, so it’s quite foreboding the first time you walk in (and you have to take a radio with you in the rare event you get locked in), but the amount of resources available in there is incredible. I’d highly recommend anybody with an interest in history to get in contact and try and arrange a viewing of these wonderful documents. They have four charters in total, with the great wax seal surviving on one of them, but even though they are (in my opinion at least) the flashiest part of the archives, there’s a lot of other primary sources to examine.
I started my placement in November 2016 when they were finalising the installation of the new organ, which looks absolutely incredible. Each pipe in the organ needs tuning, so it took a few months of random sounds before it all came together, but it was really fascinating seeing the whole process unfold. When it’s up there we seem to forget about all the craftmanship and effort which goes into making the music, so I’m glad I got to experience a part of its installation. I’d again recommend anybody to go and check it out if you’re in the area.
I won’t be able to talk about everything I did in the blog, but I think it’s important to at least mention my trip into the Cathedral’s catacombs. It sounds really eerie, and I was prepared for the spooky images my imagination had conjured up for me, but I was a little disappointed to find the entirety of the catacombs had been repurposed years ago for the organ’s blowing apparatus. It’s still pretty cool that I can tell people I’ve been in catacombs though, I guess it’s just the old expectation versus reality debate…
Anyway, I had a wonderful time at Manchester Cathedral. I felt welcome from the first moment I entered, and all of the staff seemed genuinely interested in my degree and what I was doing with the heritage team. Ecclesiastical history is where it’s at in my opinion, and the Cathedral is a wonderful example of medieval English heritage. A final thing I would add is to go and check out the misericords in the quire, the craftsmanship is outstanding!