A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
GOOD FRIDAY 6:00pm-8:30pm Tickets £22/£15
To take advantage of FRIENDS SPECIAL PRICES for Coventry Cathedral Chorus concerts please order them from Jill Pacey who is the singer responsible for direct ticket sales. Her email address is [email protected]
HOLY WEEK SERVICES
Palm Sunday - 2nd April 10.30am Sunday Eucharist
4pm The Way of the Cross – music and readings for Passiontide
Monday – 3rd April 12pm Litany & Eucharist
Tuesday – 4th April 12pm Litany & Eucharist
Wednesday – 5th April 12pm Litany & Eucharist
Maundy Thursday – 6th April 10.30am Chrism Eucharist
7.30pm Eucharist for Maundy Thursday followed by the Maundy Watch
Good Friday – 7th April 9.00am Passion Service
2.00pm Stations of the Cross in the Cathedral Ruins
6.00pm Coventry Cathedral Chorus J.S. Bach - St John Passion
Easter Day – 9th April 6.00am The Easter Dawn Eucharist
10.30am The Easter Day Eucharist
4.00pm Festal Evensong
The Glue That Holds Us Together
COVENTRY CATHEDRAL WAS constructed at a time of great advances in adhesive technology, but as I look around it still surprises me to think that many of the wood, metal and concrete parts of the building are held together with glue!
Messrs Ove Arup and Partners were the structural engineers for both Coventry Cathedral and Sydney Opera House - two iconic buildings of the 1950s/60s. Both buildings relied extensively on reinforced concrete, and their structural engineers were fully familiar with the years of research and development into adhesives. During the construction of these two buildings glues were used for the first time on a large scale to join many of their concrete sections together.
In Coventry Cathedral the 62 ft. nave columns are made of reinforced concrete, each weighing 9 tons. They were made in Bridport, Dorset in three sections of roughly equal weight, and stressed by means of stranded cables. Araldite produced by CIBA was the glue that was used to join the sections together. The advantage this glue has over mortar lies in its tensile strength, and its ability to make joints so thin that they are virtually invisible. If I can borrow a phrase from Morecombe & Wise, I invite you to spot the join in the nave pillars next time you visit the Cathedral.
The nave pillars.
The mullions in the Chapel of Industry were also made in three sections and bonded with Araldite. On the exterior of the Chapel of Industry the joints are hidden by slate cladding, but inside the Chapel the joints had to be as inconspicuous as possible because they are exposed to view.
Staying in the Chapel of Industry, there is a large aluminium cross suspended over the altar. It was constructed in the Mechanical Engineering Department of Coventry Technical College helped by Whitworth Gloster Aircraft Ltd. The cross is made of sheet aluminium and the aluminium sheets are bonded with an Araldite adhesive.
The Chapel of Industry altar is made of laminated oak with boxwood inlays and it was put together in the Building Department of Coventry Technical College. There it was glued together with Aerolite 300.
The letters and designs that are set in the marble floor of the Cathedral are all fixed with Araldite. That includes the main inscription at the nave entrance (“To the Glory of God…”), the floor inscription in the Chapel of Industry (“If I Your Lord and Master…), the maple leaf acknowledgment of the large gifts that came from Canada, and the Chi-Rho that was traced in the floor by Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley during the Consecration Service.
I first came across Araldite when for some unknown reason one of the processional pennies came loose not long after the Consecration. Workmen were still around at that time to deal with any teething problems, and as I watched him squeeze out two small amounts of paste and mix them together, the workman told me that the Araldite would last longer than the copper of the penny it was being used to fix!
(left) Apprentices worked on the Chapel of Industry altar.
(right) The triads form an avenue of thorns leading to the high altar.
Two different pastes have to be mixed together because Araldite adhesive sets by the interaction of a resin with a hardener when they are mixed together. It is an epoxy resin, and is very stable. Once it is mixed and cured, the glue is unaffected by temperature extremes, even boiling water or common organic solvents. Today Araldite is widely available to buy for home use.
Epoxy resins were invented in the 1930s or earlier and were extensively developed in the 1940s. At first they were used for small items like false teeth, and slowly the use built up and became more ambitious. The 1950s (the time when construction of Coventry Cathedral began) witnessed the first use of the resins in the construction industry.
At Coventry Cathedral epoxy resin glues were also used for wooden structures. The large timber crosses high above the Cathedral porch were made by the Awson Motor Carriage Co Ltd and glued together with an epoxy resin called Aerodux 185. The crosses are each 20 ft. tall and almost 14 ft. wide, with laminated sides and 1 ½ inch thick wood planks forming the faces that are visible.
The Cathedral clergy stalls and other furniture in the chancel and around the altar were made by Geo. M. Hammer & Co Ltd. They are made of afrormosia wood and the metalwork is manganese bronze. They are all held together with the glue Aerolite 300.
The oak crosses in the Porch.
Similarly, high above the clergy stalls are the 382 three-armed timber shapes that create the avenue of thorns as you approach the high altar. They are connected to each other by bronze fittings at their centres and at the ends of their arms. These fittings are all glued in place with an Araldite adhesive, and the triads themselves are joined together with Aerolite 300.
This sort of fixing is far removed from those difficult mortise and tenon joints that I learned in my woodwork class at Bablake School. It is yet another example how modern technological advances have made life so much easier today.
Membership Recruitment Campaign
Michael Mogan MBE has set out to encourage new members of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral. Right across social media you will find details of his offer that for every new member he will donate £10 to three other charities - Pass the Smile for Ben and Feed The Hungry’s work in Turkey and Tiny Tim’s Children’s Centre. In other words 4 worthy causes benefit from each new member you recruit.
Can you use Michael’s offer to recruit members from amongst your family and acquaintances? The membership application form is on the Friends website.
Each new member of the Friends responding to this offer will also receive personalised answer-smashes, rhymes and fun word games prepared for them by Hattie and Alice, Michael’s daughters.
Now it is over to you!
Please spread the word!
HERE IS THE current English Heritage “Archive Image Of The Month”. The caption reads,
“Jacob Epstein's sculpture of the Devil being delivered to Coventry Cathedral on the back of a lorry. The bronze figure forms part of St Michael’s Victory over the Devil, which was unveiled at the cathedral by Epstein’s widow, Kathleen, in 1960.”
Members of English Heritage who subscribe to its monthly email received this photo with details of how to purchase copies.
Archive photos are in the news!
I wrote in a previous Friends newsletter about the rescue from a skip of over 8,000 negatives of photos taken by the Coventry freelance photographer, Arthur Cooper, pictured on the left. 700 of the rescued photos relate to the Cathedral and you are already able to access these Cathedral pictures online in one of the galleries displayed on the Coventry Digital website. If , when you look at the pictures, you discover that you are able to add information to any of the photo captions, Coventry Digital would appreciate hearing from you. The email address is [email protected]
Back in January 2023, the BBC Midlands Today news programme publicised the identification work of the Friends and interviewed Ben Kyneswood (Coventry Digital) and me for the TV feature. In response to the publicity which that broadcast generated across the internet, the original finder of all those negatives came forward and last month in an interview on BBC CWR he disclosed the existence of approximately 1,000 more Coventry photos.
These additional negatives were brought to Coventry, and later last month BBC CWR followed up their arrival with further broadcast interviews with Ben and me. An early morning TV item about these Coventry heritage photos was even added to the BBC Breakfast Show. Ben made it to Manchester for an interview on the red sofa, but I was unavailable that day and could not make it. So I missed my 15 minutes of fame!
Work has now started on the scanning of the latest batch of negatives. It is a slow process and will probably take several months.
There have already been exciting finds. In the first box of negatives I discovered pictures of twosignificant firsts in the Cathedral’s life that were both weddings. On the 25th March 1950 Diana Thurston married Capt. Derek Walker in the firstwedding ceremony ever conducted in the Cathedral Ruins. Diana was the daughter of Capt. N T Thurston, who was the Secretary of the Cathedral Reconstruction Committee. He later became the Cathedral Bursar. The Cathedral Ruins were cleared of rubble late in 1948, when they were grassed and laid out as a memorial space. By 1950 they were suitable for use.
The second wedding was the very first post-WWII wedding to take place in the larger of the two crypt chapels beneath the Cathedral Ruins. On the 11th April 1950 Rachel Howard married Robin Simpson in the crypt that had been designated as the temporary Chapel of Unity pending the construction of a new Cathedral. Rachel's father was Provost Richard Howard. Once the scanning work is completed I hope to share more photos with you.
There is clearly widespread interest in our photo heritage. Within 24 hours of January's Midlands Today TV broadcast there were 12,000 hits on the Coventry Digital website. News items subsequently appeared online and so far this year Coventry Digital has received approximately 90,000 viewings of its website – a massive upsurge of interest in Coventry’s photo heritage.
The Friends will continue working with Coventry Digital to preserve the photo records of the Cathedral’s heritage. In time the photos will be shared with the public on the Coventry Digital website.
If you have family or acquaintances who also share an interest in preserving the heritage of Coventry, its city and Cathedral, please encourage them to join the Friends and to help us with this work.
The membership application form is on the Friends website.
DID YOU SEE last month’s announcement that amongst the people awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal (the last list approved by Queen Elizabeth) were four of the people who fought the London Bridge terrorist in 2019? Amongst the weapons used against the terrorist was a narwhal horn.
That set me thinking, as narwhal horns are not often seen, but Coventry Cathedral has a narwhal horn of its own on display in St Michael’s Hall. It is incorporated into the Bishop’s crozier – the staff that the Bishop uses when he attends services in the Cathedral.
In the London Bridge incident the narwhal horn was used against the terrorist by Steve Gallant, one of the people now honoured. Mr Gallant was on his first day out of prison, on day release while serving a 17-year sentence, to take part in a Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall, next to London Bridge.
He confronted the terrorist who was armed with two knives with a fake bomb strapped to his body. Gallant took the Fishmongers’ Hall narwhal horn from the man next to him and hit the terrorist with the horn which then snapped. The terrorist was shot by the police. In August 2021, Steve was released early from prison after being given a Royal Prerogative of Mercy in recognition of his heroic actions on London Bridge.
On the left the Bishop holds the crozier at Easter 2022. (centre) The maker's hallmark is "RWS". Any ideas? (right) an engraved dove is the centrepiece.
The story behind Coventry Cathedral’s narwhal horn came to light some years ago in a letter to The Independent. Ove Arup was head of the structural engineers responsible for the construction of Coventry Cathedral. Ruth Winawer, Ove Arup’s secretary, wrote to the paper: …. one evening in the middle of work, Ove said: 'Oh, by the way, Basil Spence is designing the official clothes for the Bishop of Coventry, and he wants a narwhal horn for the crozier - he seemed to think I could get him one because I was Danish - I don't know why. See what you can do . . .'. He then went on with other work. I telephoned the Cultural Attache at the Danish Embassy, and gave him the story, with special reference to Sir Basil Spence and Ove Arup (a favourite at the Embassy), and explained how much they would value his help in this important search. The Attache took it in his stride. He took charge from there, and obtained the object.
The Narwhal is a species of whale and its horn is a tooth that grows through the top of the skull. The horn is mainly a male feature, so scientists think its use is to establish dominance amongst the males during the mating season. (Mine is bigger than yours!) The horns are the only teeth Narwhals possess, so they are no use for feeding. The horns do have sensory nerve endings on the outside that can sense changes in the salinity of the water.
There are legends galore surrounding the narwhal. In the middle ages the narwhal horn was believed to derive from a unicorn, and to have magical healing properties. A narwhal tusk exhibited at Warwick Castle is supposedly the rib of the mythical Dun Cow that roamed the fields of Warwickshire. During the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I received a carved and bejewelled narwhal horn worth £10,000 —the 16th-century equivalent cost of a castle (approximately £3 million).
And Coventry is not the only Cathedral with a narwhal horn. Chester Cathedral has in its treasury a 16th century carved narwhal horn covered with holy figures that include St Michael striking down the Devil with his Cross.
The Coventry Cathedral narwhal horn was the gift of the Danish Ministry of Eccesiastical Affairs to the church. In December 1961 it was presented to Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley (right) by the Danish Ambassador, Mr Nils Svenningsen (left) in the presence of Mr Albert Koenigsfeldt, Counsellor at the Embassy , and Mrs Koenigsfeldt. “We Danes are for ever indebted to the British people for the sacrifices and the perseverance symbolised in the name of Coventry.”
After the presentation when he felt the weight of the narwhal horn, the Bishop joked that in future he would have to have it carried in front of him by his chaplain. With the future consecration ceremony in mind he commented, “I think I could break the door down with this!”.
(photo by Arthur Cooper courtesy of Coventry Digital)
* AMAZON has discontinued its AMAZON SMILE site that benefited the Friends with payment of a small commission on each purchase by those members of the Friends who registered their membership.
* THE CATHEDRAL CHAPTER met last month and approved its future membership as part of the new Cathedral Constitution to be introduced later in the year. There are to be 12 members, which is the maximum number that is permitted by the new law. The members are the Dean, two residentiary canons, six appointed members and three community members to be elected at the Cathedral AGM. The appointed members are approved beforehand by the Cathedral Nominations Committee which seeks to ensure that the Cathedral benefits from a range of experience and expertise most helpful to its administration.
THANK YOU !
THANKS TO A member of the Friends another memento of the Cathedral Consecration Year has been deposited in the Cathedral Archives. It is Coventry's 1962 Official Bus Timetable, the specially-designed front cover of which carried a detailed drawing of the Cathedral and announced that it was the "Cathedral Festival Issue 1962". (see above).
Do get in touch with me if you come across a memento of the Cathedral's past that you would like to donate to the Cathedral Archives, and I will be pleased to make suitable arrangements. The Cathedral Archivist welcomes all documents and photos related to the past activities of the Cathedral and its staff.