England's Post-Medieval Cathedrals

This Quest is to visit England's post-Medieval Anglican cathedrals. 18 of them were built in post-Medieval times. Four more were built as abbeys or parish churches in medieval times, then promoted to cathedrals relatively recently. We feel that, architecture aside, these four have more in common with post-Medieval cathedrals than with their contemporaries, so we have included them in this Quest.

It is fairly unrewarding. We expect that hardly anyone will complete this Quest. According to Simon Jenkins's ranking, it has no Five Star cathedrals and only one Four Star which is St Paul's in London. There are probably 100 churches in England that have more interest than the rest of the cathedrals on this list.

Still, they are cathedrals. They all have a cathedra. They are all open every day. They nearly all have a top quality organ, choir and bells, some beautiful modern windows, guided tours, Visitor Centre, espresso machine, food and toilets. We found that most of them had at least one exceptional feature that made the trip worthwhile. This is briefly what interested us:

  • Birmingham is a rare baroque church with the best collection of Burne-Jones windows in the world
  • Bristol has a unique east end - which they describe as the finest medieval 'hall church' in the world - with the nave, choir and aisles all at the same height
  • Chester has a free standing bell tower, beautiful floor tiles, and some lovely modern windows, most notably a group by Alan Younger
  • Coventry has the ruins of the old cathedral and a famous Piper/Reyntiens window in its baptistry
  • Derby has an unusual, dainty wrought iron screen
  • Guildford has an open Treasury
  • Leicester has the body of Richard III
  • Liverpool is the biggest church in Britain with the tallest church tower in the world
  • Newcastle has a crown topped tower, upon which Edinburgh's St Giles was presumably modelled
  • Oxford has the van Linge windows, it is the smallest medieval cathedral in England and one of only two that has a dual role, doubling as the college chapel for Christ Church
  • Sheffield has a hammerbeam chancel roof, a chapel screen made of bayonets and a 'Catholic zone', for the interment of Catholic aristocrats
  • Southwark has the best church herb garden
  • St Albans has the longest nave of any church in Britain
  • Truro is the only British cathedral designed in French style

Most of the other post-Medieval English cathedrals are in city centres where, irony of ironies, they are surrounded by collapsing retail empires that had previously threatened their existence. Now they are becoming the focus of urban regeneration schemes because they are the only city centre buildings that are likely to survive beyond the middle of this century.

Your reward for completing this Quest is the title Post-Medieval Cathedral Master Explorer. There is an intermediate rank for visiting 10 cathedrals.