10 DECEMBER 1988, Page 10

One hundred years ago


[TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'SPECTATOR] SIR,—May I be permitted, as holding office in a Cathedral Chapter, to say a word on the vexed subject of charges made to visitors? In the first place, .I suppose that it will be admitted that the great purpose of churches, whether cathedral or other, is that they should be houses of prayer. It is, therefore, most desirable that for this purpose they should be open at all reasonable times to all. But it does not follow that every part of a church should always be kept open. If, for instance, the nave, and other parts connected with the nave, are open, the needful accommodation for the purpose of private prayer will in most cases be amply provided. And this much is, I believe, free to all in all cathedrals, whether at home or abroad. But surely chancels and choirs, where, for the most part, the valuables and ornaments of churches are preserved, require some special guarding. I know that in Beverley Minster not very long ago, the figure of St John of Beverley, carved on the Dean's stall, has been torn off and carried away; and I also know, from the experience of this cathedral, that the habit of scratching names and doing various other bits of mischief is as deeply rooted in human nature as when the Greek soldiers left their graffiti on the pyramids of Egypt....

In the case of this cathedral, a charge of sixpence is made for each visitor, considerably lessened when a certain number visit it together. For this sum a competent attendant is provided, ready to answer questions, and to explain the interesting history and the architecture of this noble structure, and a plan of the cathedral, with notes, is presented to each visitor. On one Saturday in each month, as is well known and appreci- ated in all the county, all parts of the church, under proper superintendence, are thrown open.

WILLIAM BUTLER, Dean of Lincoln The Deanery, Lincoln, December 4th The Spectator, 8 December 1888