From whichever direction the East Riding of Yorkshire town of Beverley is approached, the twin towers of the Minster and the single tower of St Mary’s dominate the skyline. On summer evenings the sun casts a golden light on the rich coloured stone of these buildings, widely believed to be two of the finest Gothic churches in Europe. For nearly a thousand years these two churches have acted as beacons drawing the traveller and the pilgrim to the ancient market town of Beverley.
Beverley Minster is the largest parish church in England and is equal to the greatest of our cathedrals; after Westminster Abbey (the twin towers of which it may have inspired), it is regarded as the most impressive ‘non-cathedral’ church in England. St Mary’s is often described as one of the most beautiful parish churches of England and of the highest quality. Today these two buildings are among the top places to visit in the East Riding attracting more than 60,000 visitors each year. They ‘bookend’ the town and between them they determined the layout, the character and the history of Beverley.
Year by year voted one of the best places to live in the UK, Beverley is a stunning market town with cobbled streets, a popular racecourse, historic buildings, vibrant festivals and small-town charm. There is a thriving music scene and a new theatre whose patrons are Dame Judi Dench and Sir Mark Rylance. A visitor to the town can enjoy spectacular views from Westwood and the Yorkshire Wolds are on its doorstep – an inspiration for the artist David Hockney.
Two Churches One Town is a registered Charity No. 1185773 formed in October 2019. The trustees are: David Kilburn, Executive Chairman of MKM Building Supplies; Andrew Marr of Andrew Marr International; Richard Townsend of Dow Schofield Watts; Revd Becky Lumley Vicar of St Mary’s; Revd Canon Jonathan Baker Vicar of Beverley Minster and Tim Carlisle, retired from leading an International Logistics business.
We believe it is unique in the UK for two churches, the business community and a town to come together and form a charity such as Two Churches One Town. The twin purpose of this fund-raising endeavour is to rescue and preserve for the public benefit Beverley Minster and St Mary’s and to nurture and grow the unique, lasting links of Heritage, Music and Learning that bind the two churches and the town.
We need to save this priceless Heritage and keep the buildings open for everyone and safe and free to visit. The Minster needs essential repairs to the leaking roof and windows. St Mary’s needs urgent repairs to its stonework and to replace the organ.
We need to preserve and grow the Music and Learning opportunities flowing from the buildings. We must also keep the buildings open for people seeking sanctuary to retreat from the stresses of everyday life; perhaps to light a candle for someone close they have lost; for human friendship or to feed the soul in a beautiful environment.
This is a huge project and we have set ourselves the target of raising £20 million over a ten-year period.
This is your Heritage. We want to preserve and explain your thousand-year-old heritage in a more fruitful way. This will lead to better understanding, valuing, caring and enjoyment of your inheritance. Helping to preserve the heritage gives people of all backgrounds a sense of belonging in our community and a desire to share this with others. This in turn drives growth in tourism and boosts investment both of which are vital to the local economy.
Music feeds the soul, delights the mind and is a conduit for creative interaction and emotional response between people of all backgrounds irrespective of age, race, gender, religion or culture. There is an ancient tradition of music in both churches and the largest collection of carvings of early musical instruments in the world. Today the two churches provide both creative opportunities for people of all ages and background to develop their talents. They are the largest venues for the teaching of music, concerts and events in the East Riding – certainly they are the most inspiring of all settings. This has immense worth for our society.
Learning is a basic human need from which we derive vital skills and knowledge. It has a power to change and enrich people’s lives. The two churches and the town are inextricably linked with learning and have been for hundreds of years. The churches, with funding from the National Lottery, are now able to employ two Learning Officers to develop and engage new and diverse communities in Beverley and to organise events to promote the heritage of the two churches. These two important appointments will deliver learning opportunities and resources for adults, families and children and manage liaison with schools, colleges and non-formal learning providers.
We will seek to fund visits of young people from all backgrounds to come and be inspired by your heritage.
We have one chance in our lifetime to save this heritage for future generations. The coming together of the two churches and the town, with talented and gifted volunteers is a unique window of opportunity to make this happen.
We have been proactive and have very recently secured two National Lottery Heritage Grants worth £1.5m and renovation started in February 2020. This money allows the first phase of the project to be completed. Since that date we have now received further donations of some £80,000.
The next phase seeks to raise £2 million by the end of 2021 to repair the roof over the Minster Quire and the stonework and windows of St Mary’s south clerestory. The Quire is the heart of the Minster and its roof protects the UK’s biggest collection of medieval carved wooden seats. St Mary’s clerestory faces Hengate and North Bar Within so is the part of the church most visible to the town centre.
The churches, the East Riding Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund have already contributed significant resources towards the cost to restore these buildings. However, the total project cost to renovate them, keep them open and safe for everyone to visit is simply greater than the sum of these parts.
Without your help, we are in serious danger of losing what we all have and the unique skyline that Beverley has given to generations for nearly 1,000 years could change forever.
Over time we will be releasing specific ways in which you can help, and every little does help.
Tim Carlisle, Chairman
Two Churches One Town
27 July 2020