Manchester Cathedral Misericords

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1141
  • Dates of Creation
      19th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      207 x 132 mm. 1 volume (38 folios); Binding: limp parchment covers.

Scope and Content

The volume, entitled The Misereres at the Manchester Cathedral, 1483-1508, contains detailed descriptions by an unknown author of the twenty-nine misericords in Manchester Cathedral, with explanations of their symbolism and comparisons with misericords elsewhere.

Pasted inside the front cover is a typescript note: Mr Hughes [of Sherratt & Hughes] writes (30.10.49) that he does not know the name of the compiler, but remembers seeing a similar MS in the Legh (Cheshire) Collection of 18th century pamphlets which was later presented to the Portico Library and eventually sold by them, the John Rylands Library acquiring many items.

Administrative / Biographical History

Manchester Cathedral, built in the Perpendicular style, is dedicated to St Mary, St Denys and St George. In 1421/2 Henry V granted a licence to Thomas de la Warre, Rector of Manchester, to refound the existing parish church as a collegiate church, with a warden, eight priests, four clerks and six lay choristers. In 1847 the diocese of Manchester was created, and the church was elevated to the status of a cathedral. Much of the exterior of the building is a late 19th-century reconstruction by Joseph Crowther; he was faithful to the original building, and none of the original styling has been lost. The west front was rather ornately reconstructed by Basil Champneys (architect of the John Rylands Library), in 1897 in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. He also added the large south annex in 1902-3. Other alterations and restorations have been carried out by J.P. Holden in 1862-8, Sir Percy Worthington in 1934, and Sir Hubert Worthington after the extensive damage caused by Luftwaffe bombing in 1940.

The Cathedral has what are thought to be some of the finest misericords in Europe. A misericord is the projection on the underside of a hinged seat in a choir stall; when the seat was lifted up, the misericord gave support to the person standing in the stall during lengthy services; the term was derived from the Latin for pity, misericordia. Many misericords are carved with elaborate, and often bawdy, depictions of scenes from secular or religious life.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the John Rylands Library by Richard Hawkin esq. of Darwen, Lancashire, in October 1949.


Description compiled by Jo Humpleby, project archivist, and John Hodgson, Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, with reference to Nikolaus Pevsner, Lancashire - 1: the industrial and commercial south, The buildings of England series, vol. 36 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), pp. 273-9.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MS 1141).

Custodial History

Purchased by Richard Hawkin from the Manchester booksellers Sherratt & Hughes.

Geographical Names