Because of the extensive refurbishment carried out both inside and outside the church during the nineteenth century, many people can be forgiven for thinking that, from appearances at least, Manchester Cathedral is a relatively modern church.
In fact evidence of an early Saxon church in Manchester comes from the Angel Stone (right), which was discovered embedded in the wall of the original South Porch of the Cathedral in the 19th century, and which has been dated to around 700.
It was around the year 1075 that King William the Conqueror gave all the land between the River Ribble and the River Mersey to Roger de Poitou, son of the Earl of Shrewsbury.
He in turn gave the Manor of Manchester to the Greslet or Gresley family.
In 1086 Manchester was recorded in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book, which mentioned that the place had a Parish Church and it is believed that this church was located at the corner of St Mary’s Gate and Exchange Street.
However, this site was deserted when in 1215 Robert Greslet, Lord of the Manor and 5th Baron of Manchester decided to build the current church adjacent to his manor house (now Chetham’s Library). This became the Parish Church of Manchester.
View a timeline for the history of Manchester Cathedral as we know it.
Some of the most fascinating and historically important woodcarvings in the Cathedral are the least obtrusive.
The quire stalls have a hinged seat arrangement known as a 'misericord'. Hidden on the underside of thee seats are carvings of medieval tales and legends.
The misericords are thought to be some of the finest in Europe. Many of them depict a moral, in one of them a woman is scolding a man for breaking a cooking pot, a warning to careless husbands perhaps? In another, men are playing back-gammon, no doubt the carvers had heard the medieval priests denouncing the game as the devil’s own device for hindering church attendance.
The remains of the bridge that can been seen in the Visitor Centre dated from the medieval periods, through there are clues that the visible bridge is the one to cross the ditch. The video below shows the long process of unveiling the bridge, allowing it to be seen in the basement.