RIPON ‘A very neat, pleasant, well-built town, and has not only an agreeable situation on a rising ground between two rivers, but the market place is the finest and most beautiful square that it to be seen of its kind in England’. (Daniel Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain, 1722) A monastery was founded at Ripon in 661 by Eata, abbot of Melrose. Under Wilfrid, archbishop of York, it was rebuilt on a grander scale in 690. (At Ripon Cathedral there are some relics of Saint Wilfrid). But in 869, as we learn from the historian Campden, ‘this pompous Monastery was entirely demolish’d (together with the whole town) by the DANES’.

Abbey Hill is supposed to be the burial site of many of the monks. About 886 Alfred restored the monastery and city and appointed a ‘wakeman’ to sound a horn each day – the practise is still continued. (The Wakeman used to be paid by the citizens, and if they were robbed he had to pay them their losses). Athelstan granted the monastery the right of frithstool and sanctuary. In 948 the monastery and town were again destroyed by Edred, wasted by William the Conqueror in 1069, and burnt in 1319 and 1323 by William Bruce.

The present cathedral is mainly a Minster begun in 1154, completed around 1340, although the crypt may date from the earlier monastic foundations. The central spire fell in 1664. The whole building was restored by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1861-9. During World War II a number of national treasures from the British Museum were sent to the crypt at Ripon Cathedral for safe keeping. They included nine cases of books from the British and Foreign Bible Society – amongst them a MS translation of the Bible into Tibetan.

(Ripon Cathedral, weekday evensong at 1730 daily except Wed. A museum dedicated to tramps is being installed in a converted workhouse at Ripon – it will describe life on the open road for vagrants since the 1800’s using sounds and smells. Ripon Tourist Information Centre, Minster Road.

Categories: Our Catholic Heritage