Press releases

April 2018

Beverley Minster, Place of Sanctuary since 937AD

Beverley Minster wins National Lottery support

Beverley Minster has received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Beverley Minster, Place of Sanctuary project, it was announced today. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to repair and conserve the badly leaking roof of the lesser transept under which the famous Saxon Sanctuary chair is situated. It is the oldest object in the Minster (there is only one other example in the country), and is a survivor from the time Bishop John (later Saint John of Beverley) set up a monastery on the site of the present Minster. He retired to the monastery and died in 721.

In 937 King Athelstan granted Beverley the Right of Sanctuary – one of only two towns in the north of England with this status. People fleeing persecution or accused of wrongdoing travelled from all over the country to find protection for up to 30 days and a fair hearing. The priceless Beverley Sanctuary Book, kept in the British Library, has records from 1478 – 1540 containing a list of the names of fugitives and their misdemeanors.

Development funding of £32,600 has also been awarded to help the Minster progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The project, as well as aiming to carry out essential conservation and repair work to the roof, will develop an exhibition to inform visitors of Beverley’s rich heritage and historical importance. It will relate its medieval status as a place of sanctuary with the contemporary plight of refugees and asylum-seekers. It will also appoint a Learning Events Officer to develop an educational programme. The large number of Minster volunteers will receive training so that they can enhance their knowledge of sanctuary, support the project activities and help visitors engage with the church’s history.

The project will commission a new publication to complement the exhibition outlining the importance of sanctuary in the history of Beverley.

Beverley Minster is England’s largest Parish Church and attracts tens of thousands of visitors to services and events as well as to appreciate the architecture of one of Europe’s most beautiful Gothic churches.

The Vicar, the Revd. Canon Jonathan Baker said: “We are of course delighted to have received HLF funding to begin the project to repair our roof so that the Minster is safe for visitors in the foreseeable future. At the same time we have the opportunity to tell Beverley’s largely untold story as a sanctuary town with rights granted to the Minster as a safe place over a thousand years ago.”

The Minster’s project is just the start of what we hope will be an ongoing relationship with the HLF working towards a joint bid working in partnership with St Mary’s Church and the Local Authority.

Notes to editors

Beverley Minster is acknowledged to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England. Its beauty and graceful proportions leave visitors in awe of the medieval craftsmanship and the unity of design in a building that took over 250 years to complete.

It has the largest collection of stone carvings of medieval musicians in the world. They were carved in the 14th century when Beverley was one of the 12 largest towns in England. With its thriving choir and one of the country’s finest organs, music continues to be a feature of worship and, as the largest venue in the town, the Minster hosts a wide variety of concerts and other events.

Beverley Minster and the town of Beverley exist because of Saint John of Beverley whose remains are buried in the Minster. He was a bishop, a teacher and a healer. There are many accounts of his miraculous healings and his reputation attracted pilgrims in large numbers to Beverley from a wide area.

The Minster is open every day of the year and the tours currently available will be expanded as the project develops and visitor numbers increase.

The Minster website ( is a rich source of additional information.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund

* HLF Heritage Grant applications are assessed in two rounds. Beverley Minster’s Place of Sanctuary project has initially been granted round one development funding of £32,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £440,000.

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

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For further information, images and interviews please contact Revd. Canon Jonathan Baker on 01482 868540 or