Changes in the Cathedral Services

  • 19 Mar 2019
  • Historical Studies
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The religious revival that came with the church reform brought great changes in public worship. One of the influences for church reform came from the young men of the Oxford Movement, to whom the doctrine and ceremony of the early church were a precious heritage. They preached against evangelical liberalism, and they knew little of the world outside their circle, but they revived the beauty and dignity of public worship and the vitality of spiritual devotion.

Noake disapproved strongly when visiting Guarlford, finding the preacher giving his sermon in a surplus. Stronger disapproval was voiced elsewhere when preachers were hooted and yelled at by the crowds 2,000 strong.

It was Bishop Philpott's time that great changes were made in the services and ritual in the Cathedral. It was begun by Dr. Barry in a small way, and though there was no open opposition, there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in the city. It was continued by Canon Butler, Dean Lord Alwynne Compton and Canon Knox Little, all greatly respected in the city, and this made the changes more palatable.

A lay clerk told how the changes took place; 'The choristers were put into cassocks (black) and after a time, the Lay Clerks were asked if they would wear them for the sake of uniformity. Then the choristers were put into purple ones for Lent, and later into scarlet ones instead of black. Elaborate altar cloths were introduced for various seasons, and candlesticks, first without candles, first without unlighted, then lighted. A silver cross (afterwards gilded), a few flowers, a processional cross, and later a banner, elaborate robes for the Bishop and Dean, and a crook for the Bishop. At that time there were no 'special' services either at Advent, Good Friday, Ascension Day, Harvest Festival or any other time. 

The services during the week before Easter were as on any other week, except Good Friday, when the services were read as on Ash Wednesday, without music. Some years later, the three hours service on Good Friday was begun (by most likely, Canon Knox Little). At the end of the service, a bell was tolled as for a funeral. The Communion Table and Cross were dressed in crepe. On Easter Sunday all this was changed to a great profusion of flowers. The Communion service was held but once a month. Before this day, pre-1864, there was not always a scheme of music made and one of the choristers would go to the organist and ask what the anthem was. The Cathedral music was sang from only  the folio scores. There were no hymn books, the only light was wax candles in hinged brass candle sticks.