In 937 King Athelstan granted Beverley the Right of Sanctuary – one of only two towns in the north of England with this status.
People fleeing persecution or accused of wrongdoing travelled from all over the country to find protection for up to 30 days and a fair hearing.
The oldest object in Beverley Minster is a Saxon Sanctuary chair or Frithstool (pictured—there is only one other in the country), a survivor from the time St John of Beverley set up a monastery on the site in the 8th Century.
A project to repair and conserve the badly-leaking roof of the lesser transept above it has now received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The ‘Beverley Minster, Place of Sanctuary’ project will develop an exhibition to connect Beverley’s medieval status as a place of sanctuary with the contemporary plight of refugees and asylum-seekers and an education programme, while Minster volunteers will be trained to enhance their knowledge of sanctuary, support the project activities and help visitors engage with the church’s history.
Development funding of £32,600 has also been awarded to help the Minster progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.
Beverley Minster is England’s largest Parish Church and attracts tens of thousands of visitors to services and events as well as to appreciate the architecture of one of Europe’s most beautiful Gothic churches.
Vicar the Revd Canon Jonathan Baker said, “We are of course delighted to have received HLF funding to begin the project to repair our roof so that the Minster is safe for visitors in the foreseeable future.
“At the same time we have the opportunity to tell Beverley’s largely untold story as a sanctuary town with rights granted to the Minster as a safe place over a thousand years ago.”
The Minster’s project is the start of an ongoing relationship with the HLF working towards a joint bid in partnership with St Mary’s Church and the Local Authority.