Ripon Cathedral

Ripon Cathedral

The west end of the cathedral
Ripon Cathedral
Shown within North Yorkshire
54°8′5″N 1°31′12″W / 54.13472°N 1.52000°W / 54.13472; -1.52000Coordinates: 54°8′5″N 1°31′12″W / 54.13472°N 1.52000°W / 54.13472; -1.52000
Location Ripon, North Yorkshire
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Status Cathedral (since 1836)
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade I
Style Anglo-Saxon, Gothic (Early English)
Years built 1160–1547
Diocese Leeds (since 2014)
Province York
Dean John Dobson
Precentor Paul Greenwell
Canon(s) Elizabeth Sewell
(Canon Pastor & Canon Educator)
Director of music Andrew Bryden
Organist(s) Tim Harper

Ripon Cathedral is a seat of the Bishop of Leeds and one of three co-equal mother churches of the Diocese of Leeds, situated in the small North Yorkshire city of Ripon, England. The cathedral has Grade I listed building status.[1]


There has been a stone church on the site since 672 when Saint Wilfrid replaced the previous timber church of the monastery at Ripon (a daughter house of Saint Aidan's monastery at Melrose) with one in the Roman style. This is one of the earliest stone buildings erected in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. The crypt dates from this period.

People have been coming to worship and pray at Ripon for more than 1,350 years. The Cathedral building itself is part of this continuing act of worship, begun in the 7th century when Saint Wilfrid built one of England's first stone churches on this site, and still renewed every day. Within the nave and choir, you can see the evidence of 800 years in which master craftsmen have expressed their faith in wood and stone.


The nave, showing a clear asymmetry in the arches
The eastern façade of the cathedral.
Ripon cathedral - west end

Today's church is the fourth to have stood on this site. Saint Wilfrid brought stonemasons, plasterers and glaziers from France and Italy to build his great basilica in AD 672. A contemporary account by Eddius Stephanus tells us:

"In Ripon, Saint Wilfrid built and completed from the foundations to the roof a church of dressed stone, supported by various columns and side-aisles to a great height and many windows, arched vaults and a winding cloister."

Saint Wilfrid was buried in this church near the high altar. Devastated by the English king Eadred in AD 948 as a warning to the Archbishop of York, only the crypt of Wilfrid's church survived but today this tiny 7th-century chapel rests complete beneath the later grandeur of Archbishop Roger de Pont l’Evêque’s 12th century minster. A second minster soon arose at Ripon, but it too perished – this time in 1069 at the hands of William the Conqueror. Thomas of Bayeux, first Norman Archbishop of York, then instigated the construction of a third church, traces of which were incorporated into the later chapter house of Roger's minster.

The Early English west front was added in 1220, its twin towers originally crowned with wooden spires and lead. Major rebuilding had to be postponed due to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses but resumed after the accession of Henry VII and the restoration of peace in 1485. The nave was widened and the central tower partially rebuilt. The church's thirty five misericords were carved between 1489 and 1494. It is worth noting that the same (Ripon) school of carvers also carved the misericords at Beverley Minster and Manchester Cathedral. But in 1547, before this work was finished, Edward VI dissolved Ripon's college of canons. All revenues were appropriated by the Crown and the tower never received its last Perpendicular arches. It was not until 1604 that James I issued his Charter of Restoration.

Cathedral status

The rood screen

The minster finally became a cathedral (the church where the Bishop has his cathedra or throne) in 1836, the focal point of the newly created Anglican Diocese of Ripon — the first to be established since the Reformation.

Dean and chapter


The Organ
The Quire of Ripon Cathedral

The musical tradition in the cathedral is very strong.[6] The current director of music is Andrew Bryden, with Tim Harper as Assistant Director of Music and Philippa Abrahams as Concerts Administrator.[7]


The cathedral has a fine organ by Harrison and Harrison dating from 1926. The organ is on the screen and has casework by Gilbert Scott. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register. The organ was refurbished in 2013. These works included a thorough cleaning and repair of all pipe work; selective re-leathering of reservoirs and drawstop motors; reconstruction/rationalisation of the wind distribution system; refurbishment and updating of the screen console and cleaning of the case. The only minor tonal changes during these works were the replacement of Great Larigot 1 1/3 (1972) by a Flûte harmonique 8 (in Lewis style) and the recasting of Choir Cimbel III at a lower pitch.


In 1447, the organ at Ripon Cathedral was played by a priest, Thomas Litster. Notable organists have included composers Charles Harry Moody and Ronald Edward Perrin.


A ring of 12 bells with an additional 'flat sixth' bell is hung in the south-west tower. A diatonic ring of ten bells was cast in 1932, and three additional bells were installed in 2008 with two new trebles being added to give a diatonic ring of twelve, and an additional 'flat sixth' bell to give a light ring of eight.[8]

See also

References and sources

  1. Historic England. "Ripon Minster (Cathedral Church of St Peter and Wilfrid) (1150164)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  2. Archived 28 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Ripon Cathedral Friends – Annual Report 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  4. Archived 7 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. "The Cathedral Choir". Ripon Cathedral. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  6. "The Music Department". Ripon Cathedral. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  7. Emma Baxter. "Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers Latest News, Accessed 29 March 2009". Retrieved 27 October 2014.
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