The magnificent Ripon Cathedral

Day two of our northern tour took us to Ripon, where we spent much of the morning looking around the magnificent cathedral. I hadn’t known much about Ripon other than that it’s a place they sometimes mention in Downton Abbey, and I was glad when it turned out to be a pleasant place for a morning potter.

Ripon has been a site of religious importance for a very long time, a small monastery having been established there by Celtic monks back in the seventh century. A stone church built here in Saxon times was the work of Wilfred, a monk; this was later destroyed by the Vikings, and all that remains of it is a small stone crypt. The impressive building seen today was constructed over the course of several centuries, between 1160 and 1547.



We received a warm welcome from a lady standing near the door, whose job title was something along the lines of “Welcomer”. She and a colleague told us a few things about the cathedral, including the fact that it’s not built straight; the back half fell down, and when it was rebuilt it was extended further than it should have been, into sandy soil. You can see this when you stand in the middle and look up the aisle.


It was lovely to see the cathedral decorated for Christmas. The big tree with blue lights had shed an immense number of needles, and a lady was going round with a vacuum cleaner trying to get them all up.



I loved all the colourful figures in this one!

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 21.32.51

I took this shot because it reminded me of choir practice when I was at Oxford! We used to sit in the back row of various college chapels, in ornately carved seats just like that.




The Saxon crypt I mentioned earlier was most interesting. Wilfred, the monk who built it, believed it to be a copy of the tomb from which Jesus rose on Easter Day. More intriguing was what one of the Welcomers told us about: its link to Lewis Carroll, whose father was a canon of the cathedral back in 1852. She told us that the narrow staircase leading down to the crypt was said to be the inspiration for Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. Having lived for several years in Oxford – Alice in Wonderland central, as that’s where it was written – it was really interesting to learn of this other possible influence on the story. Carvings elsewhere in the cathedral are possible inspirations for the Mad Hatter.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 21.36.52

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 21.37.06

Emerging back into the light cathedral, we saw this tree, which was decorated with little feathers and tags with messages people had written on them.


I loved this tombstone for an eleven-year-old boy who died in 1823, particularly the part referring to his “sweetness of disposition, and soundness of intellect”. People were so much more eloquent back then.


After spending quite some time exploring inside the cathedral, we went for a wander around the outside. It was another beautiful blue sky day, perfect for admiring the external architecture of the cathedral.






This little ruined chapel in a nearby front garden to the rear of the cathedral was an unexpectedly lovely discovery, looking stunning in the frost.




This is Ripon’s Workhouse, now a museum and unfortunately closed for the winter. I’d have been really interested in looking round, but maybe another time.


And this was the old prison, also now a museum. It looks rather foreboding!


The prison seems a rather sombre note to end this post on, so instead here’s one of the magnificent sunset, taken later the same day, when we called into Sherburn airfield on our way to our hotel in Chesterfield! We had also squeezed in time for lunch at Harrogate before heading south.


Coming soon, my last post about our northern trip: the treats that lie in store at Bakewell’s Old Original Pudding Shop.

Comments are closed.