A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
Chairman's E-News
                                 November 2022

Remember, Remember

NOVEMBER IS THE nation's month for Remembrance with Remembrance Day falling on the 11th day and Remembrance Sunday on the 13th day of the month.
In Coventry on the 14th November we also recall the major bombing blitz on our city in 1940 that destroyed the buildings at its heart, which includes our Cathedral.
     In the world today there are still wars in progress, and in the nightly news bulletins we see with our own eyes that most deaths in modern warfare are suffered by civilians.   If displaced persons and refugees are included, it is estimated that 90 per cent of the victims of modern wars are civilians.
Without wanting always in our Remembrances to look backwards to military losses in past wars, how can ordinary people like you and I respond to the current situation with hope for the future?
     Since 2015 the response by Coventry Cathedral to this question has been to join in partnership with Coventry City Council and Coventry University in the RISING Global Peace Forum.   Together the three partners call on peacebuilders, policy makers and academics all around the world to exchange their ideas for resolving conflict and creating peace.

You are invited to come to the 2022 RISING Global Peace Forum in Coventry from 9th to 11th November 2022.   You can register online for free using the following link –

     This year the Forum will be considering how to build peace through the use of digital media.   The whole event will be live streamed around the world, so you can join from your own armchair if you wish.
      There will be an exhibition and auction on Wednesday 9th November of paintings created by Ukrainian artists at the scene of war.  Money raised will help those affected by that conflict.

Lord Mayor’s Peace Lecture – Roger Harrabin
Thursday 10th November 2022

     The Lord Mayor of Coventry invites you to the Peace Lecture in the Cathedral.   The doors open at 6pm for refreshments and the opportunity to meet fellow delegates.  The Lecture starts at 7pm.
     The speaker, Roger Harrabin, was born in Coventry and attended Stivichall Primary School and King Henry VIII School.  After studying English at Cambridge, he returned to Coventry as a journalist at the Coventry Evening Telegraph. From there he moved to Thames Television News and then to the BBC where he won a series of Media Natura Environment Awards for reports on environment and development issues.
     He is a senior journalist and Energy and Environment Analyst at the BBC and an Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, and an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge.
     Roger has said the Peace Lecture will be ‘a conversation’ and he will talk about his past 18 years as the BBC’s environmental analyst.   This role was created for him, so that he could present across all the different BBC broadcasting channels both TV and Radio.
     There will be the opportunity for questions from the audience and the event closes at 8.30pm.
     During the three days of the Forum there is the chance to hear a range of speakers from differing backgrounds discussing how digital media can be used at international, national, community and individual level both to undermine trust and security and also to enhance cohesive communities.   The speakers include
  • Volodymyr Groysman - former Prime Minister of Ukraine by live videolink
    • Richard Ratcliffe - husband of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe
  • Ollie Shiell - UK National Committee on China
  • Roger Harrabin (mentioned above)
  • Lord Peter Hain - former Secretary of State Northern Ireland
  • Tom Fletcher - former Foreign Policy Adviser and Ambassador to Lebanon
  • and someone known to many members of the Cathedral Community from his Reconciliation work here at the Cathedral
  • David Porter - Chief of Staff at Lambeth Palace (see                                                                                                                      photo) 
The RISING Global Peace Forum helps us during this time of Remembrance to look forward with hope towards a better future.



The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral will take place in the John Laing Centre, Coventry Cathedral at 1pm on Saturday 5th November 2022. 
          1pm           We gather to greet each other.
          1.30pm      AGM business meeting.
          2.30pm      Break for refreshments

          3pm          “Stephen Verney- Soldier and Bishop”
     A presentation by Rev David Barker about
a former Canon of Coventry Cathedral.
          4pm           Close

ZOOM IN.   A Zoom link is available on the members-only invitation to the AGM (see the list of Events on this website). This should open the meeting to members who live too far away to travel - particularly as train strikes have now been announced for the 5th November.

NEW CONSTITUTION.   All Cathedrals are changing their constitutions to register with the Charity Commission.  Changes are required by the Charity Commissioners and Coventry Cathedral is no exception.
   The new constitution will include the appointment of an independent Vice-Chair of the Cathedral Chapter.   The Vice-Chair is a Bishop's appointment and will chair the Chapter meeting in the absence of the Dean.  Ideally the Vice-Chair should have business management experience, so in line with other Cathedrals the role at Coventry has been placed with a recruitment agency.
     The full details of the advert can be viewed online at the following link - https://www.nurole.com/coventry-cathedral-vice-chair
     This is a new appointment so to secure the best person for the job we need to spread word of it as widely as possible.   To do this would you please read the advert and forward it to anyone you think may be interested.  


Appeal target reached

I AM EXCITED to report that the appeal to acquire the original John Hutton Flying Angel Cartoons reached its target in September.   Steps are now in hand to complete the purchase and to transport the works of art to Coventry.  
      The cartoons are currently in the north of England and for their transportation Dianne Morris , the Cathedral Archivist, was able to find removers who are both qualified to carry works of art and who are also fully insured for that work.   This proved to be rather more difficult and more costly than I had anticipated but, fortunately, the fund achieved a surplus sufficient to cover the additional costs involved.  
      Specialist removers are in great demand and are booked well in advance, so there will be a delay of some weeks before the cartoons finally arrive in Coventry.   I will keep you posted.


Quilt that honours women

ON DISPLAY IN the Chapel of Unity is the Durham Quilt.   Welsh Quilts and Durham Quilts are the most famous quilts in the UK, both coming from areas where there is a history of mining and hillside sheep farming.
      There is a story behind the particular Durham Quilt on display.   The World Council of Churches initiated an "Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women" in 1988, building on the UN Decade for Women.   The Durham Quilt in the display was created in 1998 to mark that decade, and it was first shown in Durham Cathedral.   There are 72 panels of embroidery that were worked by women’s groups all over the Northeast of England.
      You can trace three threads in the story told by the Quilt.   It speaks of the contribution made by women to one another’s growth in faith.   Secondly, it serves as a reminder of the national and international contribution of women to the well-being of society.   Finally, it recalls the lives and deeds of women in the past to whom particular squares of the Quilt are dedicated.
      The Durham Quilt will be on display until 22nd November 2022.

The Broken Angel

THE FINAL PHASE of the Broken Angel project opens on the 1st November 2022, and will remain in place until the New Year.
      For this Project three artists were invited to respond to the blank space left in John Hutton’s engraved west screen following the damage by vandals in January 2020.   The last installation is by Abigail Reynolds, who has a studio in St Ives, Cornwall.   She has been working on her installation with Coventry Young Carers and the Cathedral arts team.
      In the new work, Abigail is thinking about the attempt to enter the sacred space of the Cathedral by breaking the glass screen.   She re-imagines the broken panel as an opening door - an invitation to enter.   Cleverly, the installation seems to move as you gaze upon it.
“The broken panel showed a traditional image of an angel in human form.   An angel represents a portal to a different plane of consciousness and might also be imagined simply as an opening.   
I am thinking of the shafts of light which pierce the sacred space of the Cathedral. They make slanting shapes on the tapestry wall, like opening doors that move with the light.”

      Abigail has also displayed three other works within the Cathedral, that relate to the book held by the broken angel.   They create different points of contact in the space of the Cathedral.
      The Friends of Coventry Cathedral made a grant in support of the Broken Angel Project which was part of the Cathedral’s Rebuild Project during Coventry’s City of Culture Year.

Two Awards

WELCOME      On Tuesday the 18th of October, VisitEngland announced the 2021-2022 winners of its Visitor Attraction Accolades and Coventry Cathedral received an award in the WELCOME CATEGORY.
      The award recognises the ongoing commitment to provide every visitor with a warm, world-class welcome, and reflects well on the work of all the staff and volunteers who make up the Cathedral Welcome Team.

GHOSTS     The City of Culture Trust commissioned a film of “Ghosts In The Ruins” which was performed in the Cathedral last January.   That film has now been nominated for an award in the specialist factual category of the Royal Television Society Midlands Awards.  
      If you missed the film when it was shown on TV you can still watch it on BBC Iplayer for the next few months.  It was such a huge production that I doubt it will ever be repeated, so to view it the film is your best bet!
      “Ghosts in The Ruins” was a site specific production with music composed by Nitin Sawnhey and sung by Coventry Cathedral Choir with others.   The first part of the performance was inside the new Cathedral.   The music of choir and soloists was accompanied by visual projections created by the artist Mark Murphy.   He covered the nave walls with brilliant images reflecting facets of the heritage and of the people of Coventry.      
      For the second part of the performance the audience was invited to move into the Cathedral Ruins where the Cathedral Choir was joined by community singers from in and around Coventry.   The singing was accompanied by dramatic lighting effects. 
      The Friends of Coventry Cathedral made a grant towards “Ghosts In The Ruins” which was part of the Cathedral’s Rebuild Project.



WITH THE APPROACH of Christmas the Cathedral is seeking additional stewards for the extra Christmas services and events.   If you (or someone you know) would like to help with the stewarding over the Christmas period, please get in touch with the Volunteer Organiser – Jackie Skipp, who will explain what is needed. 

Jackie can be contacted by telephone –
024 7652 1243
or by email
[email protected]


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]

Cathedral Organ Restoration update

THE ORGAN RESTORATION appeal was launched after a comprehensive examination of the instrument by Dr William McVicker, a widely respected expert.   His report on Coventry Cathedral organ included the following passage:
When the organ was built it is said that the concrete platforms (on which the organ sits at various levels either side of the High Altar) were carefully engineered to allow the weight of the components to bring each to the correct level when fully loaded. The implications of removing some or all of the organ from these concrete platforms needs to be explored thoroughly in order to avoid an accident during dismantling.
      In other words what would be the effect on the Cathedral building’s structure of the removal of all the organ pipes during the restoration work?
      To find the answer the Cathedral Chapter commissioned a structural appraisal to test the strength of the concerns that had been raised.   The appraisal report is now received and I am pleased to say that after a detailed examination of the site the structural engineer has concluded:  “I have seen nothing that suggests there are any significant implications for the organ project arising from the issues outlined.”
      Receipt of the structural report has enabled the restoration work to be put out to tender.   Organ restoration work is normally a 2- or 3-year task.   This means that even when sufficient funds are raised and the work is commissioned, the restorer is unlikely to be available to commence work immediately.   We all know that delay means an inevitable increase in the costs.
      To restore the organ pipes they must be removed from the organ.   The next question is To where will they be moved?   If the pipes remain on site (the most convenient option) the only available place to keep them is the Cathedral nave.   If the nave is taken up with organ pipes it becomes unusable for other purposes.  
      With this in mind in the tender specification the Cathedral Chapter has required that the restoration work on the pipes be conducted off-site – a condition that will inevitably increase the cost but has the advantage of allowing Cathedral services and other Cathedral events to continue.
      With an appeal target of over £1m the hunt is now on for major donors.
                                  Have you any suggestions?

Remember Pat Boone?
   THERE HAVE BEEN occasions over the years when I have been moved to tears sitting in the Cathedral and experiencing the beauty of the music of Lotti’s Crucifixus or Britten’s Missa Brevis or one of Bruckner’s anthems.
      But I have a very broad taste in music, and I am also particularly fond of early rock ‘n roll.   I count myself lucky to have seen Chuck Berry and Little Richard in performance as well as the Rolling Stones on more than one occasion.   Particular music highlights have been my visits to the recording studios used by Buddy Holly in Clovis, New Mexico where I was privileged to play both the piano and the celeste heard on his recordings.
      In Coventry last month at the HMV Empire, Hertford Street I went to a concert by Albert Lee, one of the few musicians of that early era still performing.   He is not simply a folk-rock guitarist famous for accompanying Emmylou Harris and touring with the Everly Brothers.   He is a virtuoso musician whose guitar skills have drawn praise from Eric Clapton, the UK’s most famous exponent of the blues.
      At the concert I sat between two brothers who were just as enthusiastic about early rock music as I.   Knowing of my link with the Cathedral they proudly told me of the concert they attended in the Cathedral to hear the singing of Pat Boone.   This surprised me as I had no idea that Pat Boone ever sang here.   Boone was an internationally famous star.   Across the world he was second only to Elvis in the music charts of his time.   Yet, I had never heard of his visit.  
      A committed Christian throughout his life, as his pop music career reached its peak, Pat Boone turned to gospel music.   With other members of his family, he toured the world spreading the Good News of the Bible through their music.  
      My online search turned up no reference to Pat Boone in Coventry Cathedral.   The brothers told me that they heard him sing in a gospel concert in our Cathedral, and they thought it would have been about fifty years ago.
      Is there anyone reading this who recalls the visit of Pat Boone?

Cracking bells
LAST SUMMER A collar of scaffolding was built around the Cathedral tower in order to allow the Cathedral Ruins to remain open.  
      Earlier in the year an examination by steeplejacks had revealed cracks in the stonework. (see the lower photo)   The repair work was delayed because the nest of a protected species of bird was discovered at the top of the spire, and it is illegal to disturb its nesting sites.   Measures were taken to protect the public from any possible fall of masonry.
      The single egg in the nest failed to hatch, which meant that work could start and the stonework cracks were all then re-pointed.   The structural engineers ruled out any danger to the public.   They reported that there is movement that might be expected from such a tall structure, but nothing sufficient to cause concern.   As a precautionary measure regular monitoring of the spire is now in hand.
      This is not the first time that cracks in the steeple of St Michael’s have caused problems.   In the past it was suspected that the cracks were either caused or aggravated by the ringing of the Cathedral bells.
      In the early summer of 1885, it is reported that Alderman William Andrews learned of cracks in St Michael’s spire.   Using field glasses he spotted the cracks in the stonework that were at about the same height as the timber framework on which the bells were hung at that time.
      He did not leave it at that, but he made a thorough inspection of the interiors of both steeple and tower.   His conclusion was that the wooden bell frame had never been properly stayed.   When the bells were rung the swaying of the frame brought it into contact with the stonework like a battering ram and, in his opinion, was the cause of the cracks.
      Ald. Andrews’ conclusion was duly reported to the St Michael’s Restoration Committee (of which he was a member) which at that time was supervising a massive works programme to restore the building.   Over previous decades St Michael’s Church had been neglected and had fallen into decay.    The Restoration Committee carried out further scientific tests but finally decided to suspend the ringing of the bells as a precautionary measure until a permanent answer could be found.   Until that time the bells would not be swung, but would be chimed using external strikers.
      Not everyone took notice of this ruling.   A few months later on the night of 31st December 1885 there was a reckless (and almost disastrous) attempt made to swing the large tenor bell into action and to ring it while it was hanging in the octagon, just above the battlements.   The bell weighed 1½ tons.   All that the perpetrators wanted was to ring in the New Year, but the attempted ringing fell just short of disaster.   A reporter working for the Coventry Standard wrote the following account.
“Between 11 and 12 o’ clock at night the bell was chimed at short intervals, and an attempt was made to ring it, but this was not very successful.   The headstock struck the beams on each side as the bell swung up, the temporary frame quivered and groaned with the enormous strain, and the vibration transmitted to the steeple itself was sufficient to induce giddiness, and to alarm several members of the assembled party.  
One gentleman took refuge in the turret staircase, fearing a catastrophe, while another, who was in the octagon itself, below the bell while the experiment was made” (the ringers being in a room in a lower part of the tower) “noticed such a lurching sensation that he cried out in affright for the bell to be stopped.  
Afterwards the chiming was continued till midnight, when 12 blows were struck for the last hour of the year, and the party descended.”
      At that time the spire was leaning, which made underpinning work part of the 1885 restoration works programme.   Could the lean have caused the cracks?   Alderman Andrews measured the degree of inclination on 13th November 1885 before the underpinning work started.   He calculated that the steeple leaned 34½ inches.
      To make them easier to chime, the bells were moved to a position just above the battlements level.   At the same level the tenor bell was properly hung on a temporary basis so that its sound quality could be judged from below.   On 21st September 1886 Ald. Andrews learned of the near-disaster of New Years Eve, and took fresh measurements.   The spire lean had lurched to 41½ inches.   His opinion was that the increase was due entirely to the damaging thrust of the tenor bell on New Year’s Eve in the attempted ringing - though this opinion was later discounted.
       The 1885 underpinning work that stabilised St Michael’s spire has been effective to this day.   Mr Thompson, the contractor, discovered that although there may have been damage caused by ringing the tenor bell on New Year’s Eve, there had previously been gradual subsidence over a long period of time.   His work put a stop to any further movement - though the lean remains.  
      Strangely, after the 1940 Coventry Blitz the lean of the Cathedral spire gave rise to concern to the outside surveyors brought into the city for damage assessment.   On seeing the lean, they thought that the bombing had made the structure unsound, so they were seriously considering the demolition of the tower and spire.   Just in time it was pointed put to them that the lean was due to a historic subsidence problem that had already been dealt with back in the 19th century.   The original cause of the problem is thought to be the existence of a defensive ditch around the grounds of Coventry's Norman castle, the edge of which is adjacent to the Cathedral spire.
      In 1987 the bells were re-hung on their own independent frame so that after static playing for 100 years they could be swung again independently of the Cathedral tower and spire.   That is the position today.
  Martin R Williams  

  [email protected]  
  63 Daventry Rd, Coventry CV3 5DH  









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The Friends of Coventry Cathedral was founded in 1934. It is an independent Charity No. 1061176 registered in England and Wales, with an annually elected Council.
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