22 March 2011

Howden Minster

Howden is an interesting market town, renowned for its Georgian horse fair; once home to the north-west contingent of the Admiralty's airships; and, oddly, the headquarters of the Press Association. Between the wars and during WWII Nevil Shute, aeronautical engineer (he worked on the R100 airship), pilot, novelist (A Town Like Alice), and racing driver, lived here.

There are numerous fine Georgian and Victorian buildings. Looking kindly over these is Howden Minster. William the Conqueror gave Howden and its church to the Bishop of Durham in 1080. Rebuilding of the Norman church in Early English style commenced in 1228, and it became collegiate (a minster) in 1267. The rebuild was completed in the Decorated style circa 1340, although an octagonal chapter house was added about fifty years later.

In 1548 came the Dissolution of collegiate churches and chantries. The chancel was abandoned for lack of funds, and the roof of this collapsed in 1696. The roof of the chapter house went the same way in 1750. The ruins, abutting the operational minster, are now in the care of English Heritage. Nearby are the remains of the Bishop's Manor, Howden being a stop on the way from Durham to London.

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