Manchester Cathedral Timeline

A timeline of the Cathedral's history from the 7th Century to the modern day.

7th century

The first church in Manchester is built, possibly near to where St Ann’s Church now stands.


Following the destruction of the first church by the Danes, King Edward the Elder builds a new place of worship possibly on the same site as the present church. This is the St Mary’s Church mentioned in the Domesday Book.


The present church is built within the precincts of the Baron’s Court, beside the Manor House which is now part of Chetham’s Music School. The Lords of the Manor were the Greslet family, sometimes spelled Grelley or Gresley and the family coat of arms is still in use in the church today.

Before 1311

The Gresley family build and endow the first Chantry, the St Nicholas Chantry. Built around 1215 by the Greslet family, before it was passed on to the de la Ware family in 1311. It was endowed in 1349 and rebuilt by the de Trafford family in 1470. The chapel occupied two bays. It was one of five such chapels which existed within the church; all of which were abolished as chantries during the Reformation. The defining screens have been removed making it look like double aisles on each side of the nave.


The succession of the Gresley family ends and the estate is passed, by marriage, to the de la Warre family.

1330 - 1360

Works begins on the delicately carved entrance arch into the Lady Chapel, and the former tower are built.


The St Nicholas Chantry is endowed by the de Trafford family.


Thomas de la Warre becomes Rector of the parish church.


Following the death of his brother, Thomas de la Warre becomes Baron of Manchester.


On the 22 May: King Henry V issues a charter, licensing the conversion of the parish church of St Mary in Manchester into a Collegiate Church dedicated to St Mary, St George and St Denys.

1422 - 1458

John Huntingdon, first Warden (d.1458), whose rebus, showing a tun (barrel of ale) can be seen in the Quire ceiling, receives further grants of land from Reginald West for the building of domestic accommodation for the fellows of the Collegiate Church.


Thomas de la Warre dies, leaving £3,000 to be used on the buildings of his collegiate foundation. Most of this goes on converting the Baron’s Hall into the house-of-residence for the College Priests or Fellows.

1440 - 1458

During his wardenship John Huntington undertakes the building of the Quire, or chancel, at his own expense. In 1440 the carved screen to the Lady Chapel is completed.

1465 - 1481

Warden Ralph Langley rebuilds the Nave, in a style harmonizing with the grace of his predecessors architecture. The Chancel Arch is added, with two flanking staircases dividing the Nave and the Quire.

1481 - 1482

James Stanley II (1465-1515), stepson of Margaret Beaufort and subsequently Bishop of Ely, is fifth Warden of the Collegiate Church from 1485 to 1509. His eldest brother, Sir Thomas Stanley, marries Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor


Lord Thomas Stanley and his brother, Sir William Stanley, lead a contingent of men from Lancashire and Cheshire against King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and were instrumental in securing such a decisive victory and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. Sometime after this Lady Margaret Beaufort probably commissioned the famous consort of Minstrel Angels which were placed in the nave.

1501 - 1506

The St George Chantry is built by the Manchester merchant William Galley. It is located next to the St Nicholas Chantry.  Quire stalls and misericords completed by James Stanley II.


The Jesus Chapel is built and established “to the praise of God, and to the honour of the Saviour and of the name Jesus” by the Bexwicke family. The Chapter House is rebuilt over the former Sacristy. The north columnade of the Nave is moved    two feet north and the clerestory is added to let in more light.


Work commences on the St John the Baptist chapel (now the Regimental Chapel), endowed by James Stanley, Bishop of Ely. The building was a joint venture with his son John in thanksgiving for the latter’s safe return from and knighted after his part in the Battle from Flodden Field. 


James Stanley dies. A small chapel, the Ely Chapel is built adjacent to the St John the Baptist Chapel to hold his grey, marble tomb.


Henry VIII undertakes an inventory of all the goods in the ancient churches.


On the 9 July, Manchester College is dissolved by King Edward VI under the Second Abolition of Chantries Act and the land sold to Edward Stanley, Third Earl of Derby.


Edward VI undertakes another inventory. This time all of the Church plates are confiscated.   


The College is re-founded by Mary I under the same terms as the first Charter, although the domestic accommodation remains in Derby hands.


Collegiate Church parish registers begin and have continued ever since.


Queen Elizabeth I dissolve the Marian college and re-founds it as the College of Christ in Manchester.

1595 - 1608

Dr John Dee (1527-1609), mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and adviser to Elizabeth I, is ninth Warden and lives in the college domestic accommodation.


Humphrey Booth of Salford pays for Holy Trinity Church and for the erection of a gallery in the Collegiate Church south aisle.


After neglect by Warden Richard Murray, the Collegiate Church is re-founded a third time by a charter of King Charles I, after a petition led by Humphrey Chetham.


The Burial of Richard Percival, linenwebster of Kirkmanshulmeand the first fatality of the Civil War took place in the Collegiate Church on 18 July. From 24 September - 2 October, the Collegiate Church was damaged during Royalists sieges of Manchester at Salford Bridge, led by James, Lord Strange, 7th Earl of Derby.


The church is damaged during the Civil War.


On 20 September, merchant, financier, Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire and benefactor of the Collegiate Church, Humphrey Chetham died. A funeral procession took place on 12 October. 


Baptism in Collegiate Church of Ann Lee (1736-84) born in Toad Lane, and a founder of the Shaker sect. She later emigrates to North America with followers in 1774.


On 30 November: Prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as ‘The Young Pretender’ or ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, attends a service at the Collegiate Church and reviews the local Jacobite volunteers in the churchyard.


On 28 October: The city’s first mass meeting on the campaign to abolish the slave trade took place at the Collegiate Church. Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846), a leading figure in the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, on his return from Liverpool to London to collect information about slavery, preached to a packed congregation and a Manchester petition is launched.

1790 - 1821

Revd Joshua Brookes, Master at Manchester Grammar School and Chaplain at the Collegiate Church, is among those who conduct mass baptisms and weddings.

1814 - 1818

The interior stonework of the building is ‘picked’ and then covered with Roman cement.


On 19 December,Mary Heyes was buried at the Collegiate Church. She was injured while pregnant at the Peterloo Massacre in August and eventually died in December from her injuries.


James Prince Lee was the founding Bishop of the new Manchester Diocese, when the Collegiate Church became Manchester Cathedral.


The Cathedra, or Bishop’s Seat is erected.

1862 - 1868

The Roman cement is cleaned off and the galleries demolished. The church’s tower is replaced by a new structure designed by J.P. Holden after the old one became dangerous. 


Death of Canon Cecil Wray. A contemporary of Joshua Brookes and a rival to the claim of being the most prolific baptiser and ‘marrier’ in English history. Records show that he presided over 33,211 christenings 13,196 marriages and 9996 funerals as a result of the massive growth in population during the Industrial Revolution.


The new tower, an exact replica of the previous structure but six feet higher, formally opened. The outer face of the Cathedral is renewed.

1882 - 1883

The whole of the Nave interior is replaced, stone for stone under the direction of Joseph Crowther.


Hanging Bridge Chambers built over the Hanging Bridge and becomes a major visitor attraction.

1891 - 1892

A new south porch and the Baptistry extension are built.


The Victoria Porch is built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.


The building of the West End entrance and porch, designed by Basil Champneys after the completion of the John Rylands Library, is completed during the Deanship of Edward McClure.


The south-east annex including the Bishop Wickham Library, also designed by Basil Champneys, is completed.

1933 - 1936

The building of a further south-east extension, designed by Percy Scott Worthington, takes place. The Refectory and Choir School are built.


The Derby Chapel, once the St John the Baptist Chantry, is given over to the Manchester Regiment on 11 November.


On 22 December during what has been dubbed ‘The Manchester Blitz’, the north-east corner of Cathedral is destroyed by German Luftwaffe landmine which blasted a great hole in in the wall and shattered the old glass. Restoration takes almost 20 years. 

1964 - 1983

Alfred Jowett (1914-2004) CBE and a leading national campaigner for social equality becomes Dean of the Cathedral.

1972 - 1995

The West Windows are replaced in stained glass by the artist Antony Hollaway. The first window to be commissioned was the St. George Window in 1972, followed by the St. Denys Window in 1976, the St. Mary Window in 1980, the Creation Window in 1991 and the Revelation Window in 1995. Not since William of Sens put his team to the glazing of Canterbury Cathedral in 1174 had the complete West end of an English Cathedral been reglazed by the same designer. 


On 15 June, an IRA bomb is detonated on Deansgate causing significant damage to the Cathedral, including the Fire Window in the Regimental Chapel.


The Installation of the Hope Window, designed by Alan Davis and commissioned by The Oglesby Charitable Trust completes the stained glass windows found at the east end of the Cathedral. The window is dedicated to the character and vibrancy of Manchester. The window sits alongside the Fire Window in the Regimental Chapel (1966), the East Window above the Lady Chapel in memory of Henry Boddington (1945), the Healing Window designed by Linda Walton (2004 2nd) and the Fraser Chapel Window designed by Mark Cazalet (2001). 


On 22 May, Manchester Arena was subject to a terrorist attack in which 22 concert goers were killed. Manchester Cathedral plays a role in the region’s spiritual recovery. In 2021 the Glade of Light memorial is built outside the north side of the Cathedral to commemorate the victims.


14 September saw the dedication of the new Stoller Organ at the Cathedral, built by Tickell Organ Builders, and an inaugural recital by Thomas Trotter.


In May, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Manchester Cathedral celebrates the 600 Anniversary of becoming a Collegiate Church. On 8 July, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visits Manchester Cathedral to mark the anniversary.


On 5 May, after being delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a special service was held celebrating the 600 Anniversary of the Collegiate Church in the presence of The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell, The Lord Archbishop of York.


Manchester Cathedral opens its doors to thousands of mourners after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visited on 15 September during the national period of mourning read books of condolence, lit candles in honour of the late Queen and viewed photographs of the Queen's visit to the Cathedral in 2021. Crowds later came together to watch a live screening of Her Majesty’s funeral on 19 September.