A large Roman villa occupied much of the present-day Minster curtilage. A panel of painted plaster, excavated from the bath-house of the villa, is now displayed on the wall of the south quire aisle and a fragment of mosaic (perhaps reworked for the Anglo-Saxon church) can be seen under the Bread Pews in the south transept. A large part of the villa was covered when the Minster School complex was built over it in the early 1960s. In 2008/9 these buildings were pulled down and fresh investigations may now take place.
In AD 956 King Eadwig of Wessex grants Oskytel, Archbishop of York, lands in Nottinghamshire (possibly the estate of the former Roman villa) and a Minster church was established at Southwell. “Minster” means the main, largest, church in an area (around which local parish churches were established, particularly during the medieval period). In 1108 the Archbishop of York authorised the rebuilding of the Anglo-Saxon church and the building we know today was started. Very little of the early rebuild remains (on account of later construction) but by the 1120s work had reached the arches below the central tower, which still survive.
The Minster’s Chapter House (c.1300) is renowned for its extraordinary carved stone leaves and “green men” It is today widely considered one of the most beautiful buildings in England and the great architectural historian, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, devoted a complete book to its glories.
In 1884 the Minster becomes mother church of the new diocese. As the seat of the Bishop, it is now properly “Southwell Cathedral” but the historic name – Southwell Minster – is still used.
Winner of Sandford Award 2005
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