Beverley Minster

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Beverley Minster

I was quite surprised to learn that the churchyard at Beverley Minster in Yorkshire has been opened to the public for the first time since the early 19th century. I was under the misapprehension that visitors could see churchyards anywhere unless they were closed due to safety problems but that’s not the case.

It seems that 150 years ago, someone – presumably the vicar or the church authorities – decide to keep the churchyard private. What possessed them to do this is beyond me but it smacks of un-Christianlike behaviour.
As the minster is the local parish church you would have thought any parishioner could visit. Admittedly Beverly Minster is not your usual parish church being bigger, grander and more impressive than many (another on this scale is St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol) and that might have been behind the decision to keep the public out. A little while ago the vicar, Reverend Jeremy Fletcher decided – quite rightly – to open the churchyard but it has taken a little while to make the grounds safe for visitors.

One of the growth areas for tourism has been the increasing interest in tracing family histories. That has led to more of us visiting churchyards to record details of family members. Those that have no interest in family history still visit churchyards for the peace and solitude or because some of the gravestones tell us a great deal about our past history. I can think of one small parish church where the jobs of some people are listed on their gravestones like “bathing machine proprietor” which conjures up a picture of a very different era. People even visit them for the humour of the comments such as the well-known “under this sod lies another” and ones that are something like “Here lies my wife/husband, Now she’s/he’s at rest, And so am I.” or the famed one linked to Spike Milligan, “I told you I was ill.”

Are there other churches, cathedrals or religious buildings that we still do not have access to? Other than those that might be considered unsafe to enter due to vandalism or dereliction?

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