Manchester Cathedral

Manchester, England

The church where the wedding bells never stopped ringing, in the 19th century Manchester Cathedral hosted over 1,000 weddings a year; sometimes over 2,000.

- © Rept0n1x

The Origins of Manchester Cathedral

There have been churches on the site of the cathedral since at least the 10th century. The first of these was destroyed by Vikings in 923. This was later rebuilt from the ground up and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was then replaced with a new church in 1215, which in turn was replaced in 1421 with the collegiate church that would go on to become Manchester Cathedral.

The collegiate church was dissolved briefly, in 1547, during the reign of the protestant king Edward VI, but re-established eight years later when his catholic sister Mary I took to the throne. It was expanded gradually over the years, a series of chantry chapels being added along the north and south sides.

- Public Domain

Manchester Cathedral and the Industrial Revolution

Since the establishment of the 1215 building the site had been home to the parish church of the whole of Manchester. This made sense when the city was small but as it grew over the years it began to create complications. During the industrial revolution the number of people served by the church became disproportionately large. Several chapels of ease and private chapels were set-up but these were unable to address certain issues, chief amongst them: weddings.

- © Michael D Beckwith

Weddings at Manchester Cathedral

At the time, in order to get married couples had to pay a fee to both their local parish church and the church they got married in. Most the people of Manchester were poor industrial workers who could not afford to pay two marriage fees. As a result, there was a huge demand for marriages in the future Manchester Cathedral. Thousands applied every year and, in the early to mid 1800s, the eccentric Reverend Brookes refused to let them leave disappointed.

In 1821 alone he personally conducted 1,924 marriages, that's more than 5 a day. During busy periods he married people in batches of twenty. The brides would queue, whilst the grooms awaited their turn in a nearby pub. If one of them was late back then the marriage went ahead without him, a passer-by or another groom being used as a stand-in.

Unsurprisingly Brookes is thought to have conducted more marriages than any other English clergyman in history. And that's not all, he is also thought to hold the record for the highest number of funerals and christenings too.

As populations continued to grow so did the number of ceremonies conducted in the church. 1838 saw 5,164 christenings, 1,457 funerals and 2,615 weddings. Soon, even the most eccentric priest wouldn't be able to keep up.

- © Abfab27

The Church Becomes Manchester Cathedral

In 1840 the wardens and fellows of the church were made into deans and canons in preparation for it being made a cathedral. In 1847 this at last happened: Manchester Cathedral was born.

Since then it has been renovated several times, listed as a grade I historic building and damaged by two bombs. The first of these fell during the blitz. It destroyed two of the cathedral's chapels, damaged its roof and blew out its stained glass windows. The second was planted by the IRA in 1996.

Visiting Manchester Cathedral

The cathedral is open daily from 9.30am to 4pm. It is free to visit and is in the Northern Quarter of the city centre, a short walk from Exchange Square tram stop and Manchester Victoria station. In the evening it regularly hosts ticketed concerts, film screenings and other events. View the full events calender here.

- © Michael D Beckwith

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Secret City Manchester Treasure Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Manchester.

Read more about England's cathedrals in our articles on Sheffield cathedral and Bath abbey.


What you need to know

Manchester Cathedral
Victoria St, Manchester, England
Tips before you visit