A view backstage at Beverley Minster

York branch of Guild of Vergers visit to Hull

Monday 27th June 2011

A truly eclectic collection of churches was on the menu for the CEGV Yorkshire branch when 15 members gathered from the various corners of our region to investigate Hull.
Hull recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of the most intense WWII bombing of any town outside London: 95 per cent of its houses were damaged or destroyed by the Luftwaffe and much of the historic centre flattened. Two of the churches on our tour had to be rebuilt from war time ruins but the third (and, ironically, by far the biggest target) was a miraculous survivor.
We gathered at Holy Trinity at the invitation of verger Gordon Barley who took advantage of the normal Monday closure of the builidng to give us a private tour. Holy Trinity claims to be the largest parish church in England (by floor area – 34,000 square feet) and we are fortunate that all its individual 19th century pews, mediaeval font, rood screen and 14th century brickwork survived.
Less fortunate was the next port of call – the Danish Seamen’s Church of Sanct Nikolaj. This reopened in the mid 1950s after being completely destroyed in raids. This elegant structure is one of only two left in Britain, survivors from the days when Denmark’s vessels queued up to deliver bacon and butter to the British market via ports all along the east coast.
A shrinking local congregation reflects how the children of Danish immigrants are largely integrated into the community,while modern shipping doesn’t give time for shore-leave, but the immaculate church still survives as a wonderful advertisement for Denmark itself. Traditional Danish fish-based food was provided for lunch and, in a highly welcome change from British practice, beer was readily available for the meal at only £1.25 per bottle. We were given a gentle but warm welcome by Pastor Steen Tygesen who described how he ministers to his remaining flock all over Britain, and also made us feel quite jealous about the institution of Church Tax as practiced in his country.
The final port of call was The Charterhouse – an ancient almshouse charity which boasts a beautiful Georgian Chapel from 1777. Another casualty of war, the classic Georgian buildings were restored to their former appearance and the chapel has recently been restored with many ugly additions removed, creating a more simple glory. We were treated to a traditional communion service conducted by Master of the house, the Reverend Canon Stephen Deas with organ accompaniment provided by trip organiser and Branch Chairman Richard Babington.
The wealth of the charity allows the buildings to be maintained to very high standard and, as one of our party observed: “the floor is so polished you can see your face in it!” – not an obviously good thing in the gents’ toilets, but there you are.
And so home again.


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