Frank Buzzard – The Man who Loved Cathedrals

29th November 2023

Every Church of England cathedral is to benefit from the generosity of one man who so loved cathedrals he spent ten years of his life on pilgrimage visiting each one and has left them all a bequest in his will.

The man who loved cathedrals – Frank Buzzard

But the legacy is more than financial. Frank Buzzard, who died last year at the age of 95, wrote his own guide to each of the cathedrals too, ranging from short reports to what he called an “epic poem.”

And now his daughter, Christine is honouring her father’s legacy and is busy writing cheques and photocopying every “guide” to send to each cathedral, as her father intended.

She said:

“Everything my father did, God was at the heart of it. Whether it was his business, sport, or simply walking around the countryside, he always insisted that God was the most important thing in his life.”

Frank Buzzard has left a legacy of £4,000 to every Church of England cathedral – with one exception – Lichfield, his favourite, to which he left £5,000 and wrote the longest guide, spanning 26 pages, his very own “epic poem.”

Frank Buzzard was never far from a notebook and pen. He wrote poetry and self-published poetry books during his lifetime. But his magnum opus was his A pilgrimage Around The Cathedrals of England – spanning 172 pages – it offers his guide to every one of the 42 cathedrals in England which he kept together in a ringbinder.

Here is a snippet from his guide to Ely Cathedral:

I had just glimpsed the cathedral, grey as a battleship across the sea flat fens when a signpost announced thirteen miles to Ely. It is lovely to see a cathedral from a long distance stretching radiance over the wide acres of its Diocese …

Everybody has heard of Ely’s unique octagonal central tower with lantern, built by Alan of Walsingham after the original tower collapsed in 1322. I sat directly underneath where the spandrels seemed to curl over me, hanging in space almost without support; 400 tons of timber and lead giving an impression of weightlessness.

To those who first saw it in the 14th Century, it must have been the greatest wonder of the world.

Frank Buzzard was brought up in the Church of England and loved cathedrals, and in particular the enduring faith of the centuries they represented.

He trained as an accountant and always worked in finance, establishing his own company. His first job was in Peterborough, where he rented a place in the cathedral precincts before later moving to Sutton Coldfield, and discovering what would ultimately become his favourite cathedral, Lichfield, ‘which he often visited’.

But it wasn’t until he took early retirement in the mid 1980s that he could indulge his passion for cathedrals and he and his wife, Audrey, spent the next ten years on pilgrimage to every cathedral in England, compiling his unique guide to each of them as he went.

“My dad wrote all his life; he always had a pen and notepad in his pocket, he would write down little notes and then when he was back home, he might craft them into a poem,” said Christine.

Here is an extract from his “guide” to Chelmsford Cathedral.

It was a great joy to sit in the Chancel beneath the attractive ceiling surrounded by colour, highlighted with Summer sunshine splaying through the blazing East window, where I could not take my eyes away from the inspiring tapestry beneath the window; Such a simple pattern, such a straightforward theme, 2520 pieces making a mass of mingled crosses in every conceivable nuance of colour; I gazed for a long time….

Sitting in the Chancel was one of those precious “Beyond the mind’ experiences when God’s eternity draws the internal spirit towards serenity.

Said Christine:

“Four thousand pounds might seem a drop in the ocean to some of the larger cathedrals, I know many of them cost more than that just to keep open each day, but for the smaller cathedrals, this might make a difference.

“But it’s more than that, my dad’s faith was so strong and the cathedrals were his passion and it was his hope, as it is mine, that others will be drawn to them too. And maybe just reading his guides might inspire a new generation of cathedral lovers,” she added.

You can find Frank Buzzard’s individual “guides” in each of our cathedrals.

Don’t miss our Winter Cathedral Doors campaign, featuring a door from the cathedrals that Frank Buzzard visited. More here.