Chester Cathedral Constables
In December 2011, Chester Cathedral appointed its cathedral inspector to lead a small team of constables to maintain security, and to keep good order within the Cathedral and its precincts. The new appointee Chris Jones, in addition to becoming inspector, keeps his duties as Dean and Chapter Secretary.
In December 2015, Chris and Constable Sam Jones joined members of Cheshire Police Special Constabulary for their initial training programme. Although Chris and Sam will not become specials themselves (being members of a private constabulary they are not permitted to become special constables), joining the training programme is seen as a constructive way of developing a close working relationship between the local police and the cathedral's own officers. It also gives Chris and Sam a knowledge and understanding of Cheshire Police's procedures and systems should they need to follow them after making an arrest.
Chris was joined by three former officers from Cheshire Special Constabulary who became cathedral constables in 2017.
It could be said that with one or two notable exceptions, the Cathedrals of England are all something of a mixture; different periods of architectural history have left their marks on these remarkable buildings. However, this is perhaps more obvious at Chester Cathedral for here it is possible to trace a thousand years of the development of English architecture.
The Venerable Bede refers to a church in Chester, apparently founded by the Romans in about 175 AD, but that is somewhat doubtful! However, a wooden church was built here in the late seventh century, which was rebuilt in stone in the early tenth century in order to hold and protect the relics of the princess and nun, St. Werburgh. In 1092 St Anselm founded a monastery at the invitation of Hugh Lupus, the Norman Earl of Chester. The Earl provided suitable buildings and the monks who had accompanied Anselm from Bec probably formed the nucleus of the new community. A major building programme was put in hand, a new church in the Romanesque style was built, and between 1092 and 1220, a major monastic complex was created. Parts of this building can still be seen in the North Transept and the Baptistery, with their typical semi-circular arches. But as the complex was being built, so the architectural fashion changed to the pointed arches of the Gothic; the majority of the church had been built in the Romanesque style, whereas the last parts to be built (the Chapter House) were in the new style. Consequently the church looked very old fashioned and outmoded, and in approximately 1260, the decision was taken to rebuild the monastic church, beginning at the East end.
The Lady Chapel was the first part to be built in the new style and the rebuilding then progressed from East to West, knocking down the old Romanesque church and building the Gothic church that we see today. The Quire was built c. 1280 and holds the great treasure of the Cathedral, and indeed, a great national treasure - the wooden quire stalls of c.1380. Quite simply these are accepted as one of the finest sets in the country including an unrivalled set of 48 misericords, carved with a typical medieval mixture of domestic life, classical mythology and Christian iconography; a truly exceptional example of medieval craftsmanship, still in its original location. Rebuilding was still taking place in the early sixteenth century, when a great change was sweeping through the church and in 1539, the monastery was dissolved. But at the same time, the Church of England Diocese of Chester was formed and instead of building a new Cathedral for the new Bishop, the old monastery church became the new Cathedral. The building was hastily patched up for its new use and some parts were left unfinished. This resulted in the survival of the monastic building, and as a result, you see around you today one of the finest examples of a medieval monastic complex in the country.
The Cathedral weathered the ecclesiastical and political storms of the seventeenth century relatively unharmed although one result of the Civil War was the destruction of most of the medieval stained glass. But by the later nineteenth century the building was in a state of impending dereliction. Sir George Gilbert Scott was employed as the Architect, and a great scheme of restoration was put in hand. Almost the whole of the exterior of the Cathedral was refaced, roofs were repaired, and the whole building literally pulled back from the brink; internally, stained glass was installed, marble floors laid in the Quire, and great mosaics placed on the North wall of the Nave, designed by John Clayton. It could be argued that Scott completed the building that was left unfinished at the time of the Cathedral’s institution in 1541.
More recently, new stained glass has been introduced, notably in the West Window, the Nave aisles and the Refectory and new works of art have been introduced such as the Madonna and Child in the Chapel of St Werburgh and the ‘Water of Life’ in the Cloister Garden. Thus Chester Cathedral is a mixture of styles, dates and architecture – but beneath it all the tradition of daily worship still continues, as it always has done, forming the true foundation of this extraordinary building.