Leeds & West Yorkshire

Inside Wakefield Cathedral at Christmas

Rood screen, Wakefield Cathedral
Image caption Wakefield Cathedral has about 100,000 visitors annually

Christmas has been celebrated at a church on the site of Wakefield Cathedral for more than 1,000 years. It is situated in the heart of the West Yorkshire city, advertised by its soaring 247ft (75m) spire. BBC News went to see what goes on inside the building in the run-up to Christmas.

"This is a church where everybody is welcome," reads a small notice as you enter the main door at the west end of the building.

One of the first people visitors meet is a volunteer greeter, like Tessa, who has been welcoming people for four years.

"I often stand near the front door... A lot of people ask me questions but some ask to see a priest and I help them.

"It's a very welcoming building and it is nice to see so much going on."

Tessa
Image caption Volunteer greeters, like Tessa, welcome visitors to the cathedral

Inside the Grade I-listed building, which is open 365 days a year, Christmas trees are twinkling and rehearsals are under way for a lunchtime concert and a later carol service.

It is a hive of activity with school children coming and going.

The cathedral has about 100,000 visitors annually and has a target that everyone who lives in the Wakefield district will come in at least once a year.

Neil Holland, the building's chief operating officer, said: "It's an ancient building and things always need doing, in the last six years we've spent £7m on restoration.

"Our staff numbers are quite small by Durham, York or St Paul's standard, we couldn't function without our volunteers in roles like greeters, bell ringers or choir chaperones."

Rev Canon Simon Cowling (L), Neil Holland (R)
Image caption The cathedral is run on a paid staff of 13 people as well as many volunteers
Cross in Wakefield Cathedral
Image caption At least two services a day are held at Wakefield Cathedral

Visitors wander around the cathedral, many craning their necks to take in the details of the roof or the dominating rood screen.

But others come in to find peace and reflection.

"Worship is the core of our mission, it's our purpose," said the Dean of Wakefield Cathedral, the Reverend Canon Simon Cowling.

At least two services are held at the cathedral every day.

'Thinking time'

Mr Holland said: "We still want everybody to be able to find space for stillness here."

One visitor, who gave her name as Pat, said: "I came in to light a candle for my husband, it's 28 years now.

"I find peace… I come in every Tuesday or Friday and I've enjoyed listening to the children rehearsing today."

A short distance away Gareth Price was sitting in a chair.

Gareth Price
Image caption Gareth Price said: "It's a very busy place, I'd miss it if it wasn't here"

"I have come in for the contemplation and thinking time," he said.

"Sitting here works somewhat and I don't know whether it's saying it to someone else.

"It's a very busy place, I'd miss it if it wasn't here."

Richard Wainwright, a verger at Wakefield, has worked at the cathedral for 20 years.

"It's never boring... always something to do especially when there's a lot of visitors like at this time of year."

He added: "Today we have put 700 chairs out. I've seen every kind of event here - fashion shows, murder mysteries, film nights, concerts and pantomimes."

Mr Wainwright, who is one of three people responsible for opening and closing the cathedral each day, said they are the first in and the last out.

"There is a totally different atmosphere as the lights go out at the end of a day."

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