Between Lockdowns
Cathedral Towns
September/October 2020
Continuing with new-normal and socially-distant visits after Norwich, these were day trips on empty trains to cathedral towns near London.
There were hardly any tourists but there was plenty of sunshine. Westminster Abbey got visited too and slips in at the end as only on the second visit
was photography (suddenly!) allowed. And then it got visited again after Lockdown 3 in 2021.
This page is mostly a thing of photographs, and reports of the new-normal necessities, which we'll hopefully look back on...


27th August
A timed ticket had to be booked and paid for, although only when it came to booking were you told that it’s £8.00 (or £12.50 with the stained glass museum.) One of the best cathedrals in England, but the spiritual calm of my visit was not enhanced by being during an organ recital.


St Alban's

8th September

One I'd not been to as an adult, and a bit of a neglected gem. Entrance was free with no need to book. It has that characteristic English cathedral thing of mixing almost all the architectural styles, plus some very impressive frescoes and painted decoration. And if you're very lucky (I was) you'll get chatting with a friendly attendant and she will offer to run the new projection thing which projects onto the frescoes on the pillars images of what artists and experts believe is what they would have looked like when first painted. Very impressive.




15th September
Miraculously just 45 minutes from King's Cross on the East Coast mainline, with seat-booking essential to enable social distancing. This is a cathedral I've never been to before. Its USP is it’s monumental facade, but it has Romanesque charm and harmony inside, which was helped no end by the sunshine of a suddenly summery day. It also has the tomb of Catharine of Aragon, which is a site of pilgrimage for Spaniards and of an annual celebration.

Noticing four pomegranates left on platters I asked the attendant (another friendly one) and he told me that they were her heraldic symbol and so are common offerings. The cloister was closed but the close and cemetery around the back were full of stony photo opportunities, as you can see below.





1st October
A bit austere inside, and lacking in quirk. It was cruelly stripped of oddity and interest in a demolition frenzy by James Wyatt in 1790 I read. The work was controversial, and far from being Wyatt's only cathedral vandalism. It helped boost the conservation movement, and George Gilbert Scott was employed in the 1860s in an attempt to reverse Wyatt’s work. An antidote to the cathedral's plainness was provided by the famous Doom fresco in St Thomas's church nearby (see above) which would have been called a Last Judgement in other countries. The friendly staff kindly stuck around and didn't close the church at 12.00, to allow me some time, also unlike other countries, and I was proud that this church was the first visit registered on my NHS covid-tracking app.





22nd October
Much scaffolding covering the west façade, and much more, discouraged photography of the exterior. Still was I able to lunch outdoors overlooking the cathedral, so mild were the temperatures and so bright the sunshine through the stained glass.
















Westminster Abbey



26th October
Back to the Abbey only a couple of weeks after my first visit in decades. We went because the newish Queen's Gallery has now reopened, and it turned out to be an impressive set of spaces, in the galleries around the east end, with some very nice exhibits, including a Florentine altarpiece and some good manuscripts. I didn't take my camera as I'd discovered last time that photography isn't allowed. But now it is! So I took these with my phone. My run of friendly attendants was broken somewhat by my only contact here being with the bloke telling me not to take photos in and from the Queen's Gallery.


The above photo was taken in late November during Lockdown 2 and, cheating a bit more,
the photos below were taken with my proper camera  during the slow easing of Lockdown 3 in June 2021

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