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York Minster School to close


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It was announced today that York Minster Prep School is to close at the end of this term.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-52912172

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/education/yorks-minster-school-set-close-after-minster-suffers-catastrophic-loss-income-during-lockdwon-2873650

https://www.minsterfm.com/news/local/3116084/latest---minster-school-in-york-to-close/

This is from the Minster website:

https://yorkminster.org/latest/the-chapter-of-york-announces-proposals-for-the-closure-of-the-minster-school/

 

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Funding a half-empty prep school from Cathedral visitor fees was certainly not a good position to be in prior to this pandemic. It seems they had a turnaround plan, but what is now proposed, i.e. educating the choristers at St Peter's, seems a more sustainable solution, especially as that school is the successor to the original 627 AD school for choristers, with the Minster Prep School being founded in 1903.

 

 

 

 

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Doesn’t this emphasise the fragility of many cathedrals’ finances?  There must be others in the same boat as York.  I only know of one cathedral where it is said that money isn't a problem, although I suspect that their usually substantial income from investments and landholdings will have suffered in the present economic recession.  The subject of cathedral admission charges is hotly debated and vigorously opposed by some people, and York Minster was singled out on that account by a hostile correspondent on the ‘Thinking Anglicans’ site a year or so ago.  There’s no easy answer, especially in present times. The French system of State maintenance of the structures of greater cathedrals seems an attractive idea, but I suspect it will never happen here.  Sadly, the example of how it works (or should work) hasn’t been inspiring in relation to Notre Dame, Paris - but I will defer to S_L with his local knowledge, if he cares to comment.

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I don't know the answer! But I think that I am opposed to having to pay to go into a cathedral and I know that quite a few cathedrals do charge. It has long been a custom that 'person's in Holy Orders' do not pay to enter a cathedral. I was at Coventry some time ago, visiting with a friend, an African Anglican Bishop. We arrived at the 'West' Door and were told, most officiously, that we had to pay the £8 entrance fee. When I pointed out, politely, that, it was the custom not to charge my friend, who was wearing episcopal dress, to enter, I was told "He's not one of ours!!" He was! - just the wrong colour! A contrast came at Norwich, a couple of days later, when we were welcomed with open arms, asked if we would like a guide and no mention was made of money! Not being a medieval cathedral I wonder what Coventry spend their money on - outreach perhaps or, perhaps, like Liverpool Met., they have problems with the design of the roof!

Work has started on Notre Dame in Paris but it has been held up by the virus and by bickering over how to replace after the fire. One suggestion, I don't think it was serious, was to put a swimming pool on the roof!! Others want it replaced like for like. But the French idea of restoration, as I have said before, is very different from what 'English Heritage' would accept. Look at Chartres! The private individuals who volunteered vast sums of money have, I'm told, not entirely been forthcoming with the cash!

I have my suspicions as to the Cathedral Roland is referring to! York, clearly, isn't so fortunate with its landholdings and investments. The state won't take the Cathedrals on and, I suspect, the Church Commissioners wouldn't be too happy about that either.  I'm afraid it's a delicate matter, just like the rest of us, of balancing books.

As I said, I don't know the answer!

On a separate matter we, in France, are back to church on Sunday and have been for the past two Sundays. Everyone has to wear a mask and sit 1.5 metres away from the next person. Pews are cordoned off and there are signs were you can and can't sit. The sign of peace has, thankfully, disappeared (long may it continue to do so!) and Communion is given in one kind only, into the hands with the celebrant disinfecting his hands before distribution. The good sister's intonation, never wonderful, suffers behind the mask and I can't get used to joining in and not be able to project my voice! but it is good to be back.  

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Admission charges were common until the 20th century. They have long been a hot topic and have frequently been raised in parliament, especially in connection with Westminster Abbey where relatively high entrance charges were used to pay the choir:

In 1823 "Mr. Hume... took occasion to complain of the extortions which continued to be practised at Westminster-abbey. He knew an individual, from the country, who had lately carried his family to view the monuments in that building, and had been charged in no less a sum than 8s. for admission. Such a practice was disgraceful to the country, and had, over and over again, been reprobated in that House. It was absurd to say that government had no power to interfere in the matter. Surely the king, who was at the head of the church, might interfere; and if his majesty had not full power to command, it was hardly probable that a recommendation from such a quarter would be neglected. The House was told of the impossibility of universal admission; but he saw no such impossibility. He could not understand why any class of the community should be excluded from viewing the works for which they had contributed to pay. At all events, if it was necessary to name some admission fee, to prevent the intrusion of idle individuals, the demand for entrance at St. Paul's was confined to a few pence, and why should not the charge at Westminster-abbey be placed upon the same footing".

A return from the Dean & Chapter of Westminster Abbey to the House of Commons in relation to a debate three years later notes that:

"As to the sums charged for the admission of each visitor to view the monuments....Before his Majesty's coronation in 1821, the whole sum permitted to be charged, was one shilling and eleven pence. But the guides had obtained additional gratuities from the visitors, and complaints were made against these exactions. All the above sums have been received by the minor Canons, and the gentlemen of the Choir; and divided among themselves, after portions allowed to the officers of the Choir; the Dean and Chapter neither interfering, nor knowing when the division was made. This grant was made to the Choir in the year 1697, on the condition that, receiving the benefits from the exhibition of the monuments, they should keep the monuments always clean."

 

 

 

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In one of the Trollope novels (Barchester Towers?) Mr Harding has to go to London and, finding he has time on his hands, visits Westminster Abbey, paying one penny “to view the aisles” (my best recollection, probably almost sixty years since I read this).  There were modest admission charges in some cathedrals in the 19th century, sometimes, as you say, to view particular parts of the building.  In the current debates I have never seen people objecting to paying to visit crypts or towers, for example.  

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Not sure about the logic of having a swimming pool on the roof but there is certainly precedent for baptismal pools at ground level.

I once got into a spot of bother at a large evangelical Anglican church where I'd been asked to accompany a service as the regular organist was away that Sunday. Arriving moments before the start of the service due to delays on the Underground I was confronted by a large organ at the front of the church and lots of wires, plugs, sockets and switches in the vicinity of the organ but no obvious blower switch. By this point the vicar had come to the front of the church and had begun to announce the opening hymn. I started to panic. Flicking every switch and socked I could see, I eventually noticed the blower switch hidden away in one corner of the console. The organ burst into life and I saved the day, though I couldn't help wonder why the thing sounded so noisy when I wasn't playing.

Halfway through the service a kindly churchwarden came alongside me. "I don't suppose you would have any idea why the baptimsal pool pump is running when the pool is empty, do you?" he enquired.

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It isn't to do with logic - it's to do with the French mind!!!

The swimming pool, on the roof of Notre Dame in Paris, was, believe it or not, a serious suggestion!!

As I have said before, the French idea of renovation/reconstruction is very different from what 'English Heritage' would accept. Evidence Chartres Cathedral - no swimming pool but painted stone and marble totally out of keeping with a medieval cathedral!

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Hi

Regarding Cathedral entrance charges (which I personally disagree with - must be my Yorkshire heritage), Coventry announced last year that admission charges were going to be abolished.  I can't remember the timing, and obviously I don't know what effect the current situation will have on that.  The only times I've been there recently has been for Organist Association events starting at a relatively early hour, and there was no charge - nor any sign of anyone collection money when we left (also, these visits were Feb/March, so hardly the height of the tourist season!)

Every Blessing

Tony

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I don’t think it’s your Yorkshire heritage, Tony.  Doubtless all of us would like to see an end to admission charges in all cathedrals and churches.  But no one has yet come up with a solution to the problem of cathedral Deans and Chapters remaining solvent under the existing arrangements without occasional public appeals for major restoration work (not to mention re-building organs), voluntary donations and, in the case of the largest cathedrals like York, an admission charge for visitors who are not attending services.  Cathedral gift aid envelopes often carry a reminder that they receive no government funding other than the tax element of the gift aid donation.  There might be an occasional grant from a body like English Heritage, or a generous private donor, for a specific project, but the day to day running and structural maintenance costs are a huge financial burden.  York’s experience shows how unsatisfactory this is - made worse in present circumstances.

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My visit to Coventry, which I described as 'some time ago' must have been pre 2012 because I remember writing a letter of complaint to the, then, Dean, who was in post between 2001 and 2012, at the way my friend, an Anglican African Bishop, had been treated. His only retort was that they had to balance the books!!! It was a Friday because I remember that I returned, the following Monday, as a close friend of mine was giving the Monday organ lunchtime recital and I received a similar welcome. My friend told me that they had been officious with him, wanting money from him, when he arrived that morning to practise on the cathedral organ.

I'm pleased to see that Coventry has had a change of heart over charging. I have looked at their website and their 'access guide' now makes no  mention of charging. 

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I once had the experience of turning up for a recital which I had sponsored and being asked to pay for admission and the programme!  It wasn’t the fault of the lady on duty at the door - she wouldn’t have known.  The surprise, for me, when I received the programme was that it contained no reference at all to the sponsorship which was my personal donation on behalf of my organists’ association, equally unmentioned.  The degree of professionalism in promoting and advertising recitals varies enormously, as discussed recently on another thread.  

In ‘defence’ of Coventry, my good fortune there has always been to receive the warmest of welcomes.  My admiration of its splendid H&H organ knows no bounds - but I believe that also needs a lot of money spent on it.

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19 minutes ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

I once had the experience of turning up for a recital which I had sponsored and being asked to pay for admission and the programme!  It wasn’t the fault of the lady on duty at the door - she wouldn’t have known.  The surprise, for me, when I received the programme was that it contained no reference at all to the sponsorship which was my personal donation on behalf of my organists’ association, equally unmentioned.  The degree of professionalism in promoting and advertising recitals varies enormously, as discussed recently on another thread.  

In ‘defence’ of Coventry, my good fortune there has always been to receive the warmest of welcomes.  My admiration of its splendid H&H organ knows no bounds - but I believe that also needs a lot of money spent on it.

A friend of mine was going to make a professional recording at Coventry about a year ago or 2 (with Wayne Marshall), they wanted just over £3000 for the  recording session. So as it was a tad rich for his blood, they had the good fortune to go to a large church in Portugal with a new ish large organ, and record for free (was an RC church)

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In case I didn’t make it clear, the recital I sponsored was not at Coventry.  I have no idea what cathedrals or concert halls (like the Bridgwater Hall) might charge for the use of their organ for a commercial recording - presumably a one-off payment in lieu of royalties?  We must not stray too far from York, which was the subject here leading to discussion of admission charges, but it does highlight a problem for other cathedrals as well.

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13 hours ago, Tony Newnham said:

Hi

Regarding Cathedral entrance charges (which I personally disagree with - must be my Yorkshire heritage), Coventry announced last year that admission charges were going to be abolished.  I can't remember the timing, and obviously I don't know what effect the current situation will have on that.  The only times I've been there recently has been for Organist Association events starting at a relatively early hour, and there was no charge - nor any sign of anyone collection money when we left (also, these visits were Feb/March, so hardly the height of the tourist season!)

Every Blessing

Tony

We visited a cathedral 'darn sarf' last year and were pleased to see that they didn't demand anything.  Instead, they politely asked if anyone would like to contribute and suggested a suitable amount.  From what I could see, everyone coughed up without question. 

Even I paid up perfectly willingly despite being, like you Tony, a 'tight-fisted Yorkshireman'!  (Sorry.)

Needless to say, I thought it far more friendly to do things that way than demand a set admission fee and I wonder whether the overall income might be higher when asking politely.  'Demanding' certainly rubs up many people the wrong way, myself included.

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I've always thought the Hereford solution rather brilliant: there's no admission charge for the cathedral, but there is for the Mappa Mundi.

Everyone visiting for tourist purposes wants to see the Mappa Mundi so happily pays up, whereas those visiting a place of worship aren't asked to pay.

Sadly not every cathedral has an additional world-class tourist attraction within its bounds...

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We are very much straying from York.  Hereford is a model of how we would like things to be in all of our cathedrals, but they aren’t on equal footings financially and the sheer scale of the buildings and upkeep of the larger ones is simply daunting.  Lincoln and Salisbury both have original copies of Magna Carta.  Canterbury’s stained glass is of international importance.  Durham is, itself, a World Heritage Site - and the list could go on and on.  How lucky we are to have these treasures, and how tragic would be their loss.

What is the answer to the  problem of admission charges? - I don’t know.  The French model has been mentioned, but it isn’t all that clear how well it works in practice.   

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Cathedrals are both tourist attractions and places of worship. Personally I don't have a problem with paying to visit a tourist attraction and, as most cathedrals don't have a separate attraction as Hereford does, a general admission charge is appropriate so long as there is no suggestion of charging to enter for worship or private prayer.

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On 04/06/2020 at 23:38, S_L said:

It isn't to do with logic - it's to do with the French mind!!!

The swimming pool, on the roof of Notre Dame in Paris, was, believe it or not, a serious suggestion!!

As I have said before, the French idea of renovation/reconstruction is very different from what 'English Heritage' would accept. Evidence Chartres Cathedral - no swimming pool but painted stone and marble totally out of keeping with a medieval cathedral!

I must admit, I have mixed feelings for the painted stone in Chartres Cathedral.

My first visit to the cathedral was in 1980. I was completely underwhelmed when entering by the west door. It was incredibly dark, dank, and foreboding. Yes the stained glass was no doubt impressive but the cloudy day probably didn't help. If this is the desired effect of a medieval cathedral in less than good condition, you can keep it. I'm quite happy to use degrees of imagination to pretend to see what I should be seeing, but the condition of the cathedral back then was less than acceptable. 

I haven't viewed the painted stone in person, only in photos. I understand that the quality of some of the work is not as it should be. But at least you can actually see the building. Before, you could hardly see anything at all. You may as well have been in an underground vault with the lights switched off. It was that bad.

A visit some years later confirmed my view. This wasn't helped by listening to an organ recital on the less than impressive Danion-Gonzalez organ. A very underwhelming instrument, I was very happy to get back to Paris, and haven't been back since.

I will though visit again when allowed and view the painted stone for myself. 

 

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Yes, I can understand what you mean about your 1980 visit to Chartres. About the same time I paid a visit to Amiens Cathedral. It looked unkept, felt damp and looked rather neglected. I remember the visit well and I was most disappointed.  They had built a nave altar which looked little better than an orange box, the choir was piled high with old chairs and there was dust everywhere! It needed a good clean! I spent six months as a student in Paris and the Sacre-Coeur was exactly the same. It was dark, dismal and smelt of damp and incense. (A lovely 'high church' combination!) About ten years later I re-visited Amiens and the transformation was amazing. The Cathedral felt bright and airy, the smell of damp had gone, there was a new Nave Altar and the whole cathedral had been cleaned. It was only about 10 years ago when I re-visited the Sacre-Coeur. Again the transformation was amazing. It smelt of floor polish and the layer of dust which had coated everything in sight had disappeared!

Chartres is dark - it is the stained glass which, of course, is hugely impressive! The Cathedral itself, as a building, I think, is amazing with or without the restoration. I'm not convinced by the restoration but it is in the manner of the French. As I have said English Heritage' would have a fit!!! I also heard an organ recital there, given by Patrick Delabre, the Titulaire. I have to say that I didn't think the organ to be "less than impressive". I thought it sounded very fine in the hands of a man who has occupied his post since 1986.

The orgue de choeur is another matter of course! 

 

  

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