A Day in the Life of the Cathedral; COVENTRY'S MOST FAMOUS LANDMARK, SIR BASIL SPENCE'S ARCHITECTURAL TRIUMPH, IS ABOUT TO CELEBRATE ITS 40TH BIRTHDAY

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), May 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

A Day in the Life of the Cathedral; COVENTRY'S MOST FAMOUS LANDMARK, SIR BASIL SPENCE'S ARCHITECTURAL TRIUMPH, IS ABOUT TO CELEBRATE ITS 40TH BIRTHDAY


Byline: CATHERINE TURNER

COVENTRY CATHEDRAL this weekend celebrates the 40th anniversary of the consecration, when Queen Elizabeth II visited the city to see Sir Basil Spence's greatest work which had risen alongside the bombed ruins of St Michael's. Feature writer CATHERINE TURNER discovers the team behind one of the country's favourite 20th century buildings.

THE VERGER

AS the sun rises over Coventry the first signs of life emerge at the city's world-famous cathedral.

A lone verger walks through the grounds and opens up the ruins at 6.30am.

The verger, who acts as cathedral caretaker, is the first and last person in the building.

Deputy verger John Hosiene, aged 55, has worked at Coventry Cathedral for 10 years and lives next door. He is one of four vergers and works in shifts.

The father-of-three said: "First thing in the morning in summer it is lovely and peaceful. I love it!

"After we have opened up the top car park and the ruins we go downstairs and unlock the bottom part of the cathedral. It is not open to the public until just before morning prayer at 8.20am and coach tours start to arrive.

"In the winter it can be a bit spooky. You often hear footsteps. Once I saw a ghostly figure walking past - I thought it was one of the clergy but later noticed he was sitting in his office. But those kind of things do not bother me.

"What scared me was when someone broke into the cathedral one night at 10pm when I was on my own. I phoned another verger and the clerk of works.

"It turned out to be a glue sniffer as you could smell the glue in the air - we never caught him as he managed to escape."

John, a former freelance photographer and bookkeeper, enjoys his role at the cathedral. He said: "You meet people from all walks of life including royalty. I verged for Prince Phillip at a royal Maundy service and Princess Anne at a special constabulary service.

"Prince Phillip came to find me after the service and thanked me.

"It is great working here although you probably take it a bit for granted."

THE CLERGYMAN WHO PLANS THE ORDER OF WORSHIP

MOST days Canon Chris Burch walks to Coventry Cathedral from his home in Cheylesmore for morning prayer at 8.30am.

The father-of-two is one of three canons.

He said: "I am responsible for the order of worship at the cathedral and that includes the music.

"We have four choirs. The traditional choir is boys and men but if you come to mass on a Sunday you will see girls. The girl's choir has been going for nine years."

Typically Canon Burch's day starts around 6.30am.

He said: "We are up in the cathedral at 8.30am to pray. Two days a week I'm picked up at 7.15am for the early service.

"I go to midday office at 12.40pm and choral evensong at 5pm where I am expected to sing.

"Choral evensong is a very traditional service - it is how people imagine a cathedral service. The priest and choir sing back and forth. I used to sing that sort of music when I was young at boarding school.

"I often have evening meetings to attend. I am chairman of Coventry's Tackling Poverty programme which is something I feel passionate about.

"I tend to turn into a pumpkin at 9pm. It's quite a long day."

Canon Burch, who lives with his wife Roz, a community worker, has a 20-year-old undergraduate son, Martin, and daughter Rebecca, aged 17, an A level student.

Sunday is the most important day of the week at the cathedral with eucharist at 8am and 10.30am.

Canon Burch said: "We have readers from around the diocese. They love it - they come here once or twice a year and so it is special for them.

"I enjoy putting together an order of worship. It's exciting and helps people to come together to God."

THE MUSICAL DIRECTOR

AT 31 Cambridge-educated Scot Rupert Jeffcoat is one of the youngest musical directors in an English cathedral. …

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