England // The West Midlands and the Peak District //

Worcester Cathedral

Towering above the River Severn, the soaring sandstone of Worcester Cathedral comprises a rich stew of architectural styles dating from 1084. The bulk of the church is firmly medieval, from the Norman transepts through to the late Gothic cloister, though the Victorians did have a good old hack at the exterior. Inside, the highlight is the thirteenth-century choir, a beautiful illustration of the Early English style, with a forest of slender pillars rising above the intricately worked choir stalls. Here also, in front of the high altar, is the table tomb of England’s most reviled monarch, King John (1167–1216), who certainly would not have appreciated the lion that lies at his feet biting the end of his sword – a reference to the curbing of his power by the barons when they obliged him to sign the Magna Carta. Just beyond the tomb – on the right – is Prince Arthur’s Chantry, a delicate lacy confection of carved stonework erected in 1504 to commemorate Arthur, King Henry VII’s son, who died at the age of 15. He was on his honeymoon with Catherine of Aragon, who was soon passed on – with such momentous consequences – to his younger brother, Henry. A doorway on the south side of the nave leads to the cloisters, with their delightful roof bosses, and the circular, largely Norman chapter house, which has the distinction of being the first such building constructed with the use of a central supporting pillar.

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