Next week sees the kick off of the May leg of our long-awaited Fauré Requiem Tour. As well as celebrating sacred music, this tour aims to venerate the spectacular collection of cathedrals this country has to offer. Not just known for their looks, these archaic buildings have witnessed centuries of British history and boast some weird and wonderful claims to fame; from makeshift prisons, to nesting birds, to Pink Floyd! Here are some of the interesting facts we have uncovered to share with you…
- According to local legend, the site of the cathedral was founded by monks who were following two milk maids on their search for a dun (brown) cow. The street leading past the cathedral’s East towers is now named ‘Dun Cow Lane’.
- In 1650, Oliver Cromwell used the cathedral as a makeshift prison to hold Scottish prisoners-of-war. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 were imprisoned here. In 1946, during work to install a new central heating system for the University, a mass grave of the Scottish soldiers was allegedly uncovered.
- The cathedral starred as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films, with an extra spire digitally added on to one of the towers.
- Known locally as “the ship of the Fens” because of its prominent shape that towers above the surrounding flat and watery landscape.
- The cathedral poses as Westminster Abbey in the 2011 film, The King’s Speech.
- On the album cover of Pink Floyd’s 1994 record, The Division Bell, it is Ely Cathedral that appears on the horizon.
- In 1449, the resident Bishop of Chichester was murdered by local sailors; the town’s inhabitants were excommunicated and the church, which is now the cathedral, was closed following the scandal.
- When France fell to the Nazi occupation in June 1940 and attentions were turned elsewhere, work on an extension scheme at Portsmouth Cathedral had to abruptly stop, leaving a hastily thrown-up, temporary brick wall at the Western end of the nave.
- An appeal was launched in the 1960s with Field Marshal Montgomery at the helm to recommence this scheme, but found insufficient funds. The ‘temporary’ wall was not amended until 1990, when it was found to be unsafe.
- The hometown of our Artistic Director, Stephen Layton!
- In late 2006, after the discovery of a pair of Peregrine falcons that had taken up residence on the cathedral tower, a nesting platform was installed. Webcams were installed to enable the birds and their chicks to be viewed at close-range without being disturbed.
- In 2009, more than 150 members of the Derby Mountain Rescue team abseiled down the tower to raise money; this is now an annual event.