York Minster ‘recycles’ to bring light to winter services

28th November 2013

The congregation at York Minster’s two candle-lit services during Advent will be among the first to benefit from an up-cycling project which has seen disused altar railings from the 19th century transformed into new candle stands.
The stands, which are each over two metres high, were designed by York-based Chris Topp & Co Architectural Metalworks, and replace old wooden stands which had been used to hold candles for night-time services. They used metal from the Skidmore altar railing, which had been in storage at York Minster for many years after being removed from use. Made by Francis Skidmore and installed at some point in the second half of the 19th century, the railing featured many attractive elements which Chris Topp has been able to incorporate into the designs. The project was funded by the Friends of York Minster.
“Different parts of York Minster have been used for myriad purposes over its long history, and although the workmanship in the altar railing was quite beautiful, it had been removed several decades ago and sat out of view in storage,” comments Rebecca Thompson, Superintendent of Works at York Minster. “Rather than leave it to decay slowly, this project has brought much of it back into prominent use in the cathedral, employing as much as possible of the original metalwork to create 13 stunning new candle holders, each holding 24 candles.”
Where possible, the original Skidmore pattern has been incorporated into the stands, and duplicated on sections where new metalwork was required.
The candle stands enjoyed their first outing during the York Minster Nights event last month, but their first use during a service will be on Sunday 1 December, during the Advent Procession, when the gothic cathedral is illuminated with hundreds of candles held by clergy, choristers and the congregation. This is followed by Sankta Lucia: a festival light on Thursday 19 December, when for the first time York Minster will host this atmospheric candlelit procession and carol service based on the traditional Swedish Lucia celebration.