Minster-making in Hull

Details released of events on 13th May when Holy Trinity, Hull, becomes Hull Minster

During his visit to Hull on 7 November 2016, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, announced that Holy Trinity church would be re-dedicated as a Minster “in recognition of its inspiring regeneration, physically and spiritually”. On 11 April 2017, details of the Minister-making event were released by Dr Sentamu and by Holy Trinity; in addition, members of the public were invited to join the Minster-making celebrations in Trinity Square from midday on 13 May 2017. The Vicar of Holy Trinity, the Revd Canon Dr Neal Barnes, stressed the day was open to the whole community, and the newly-revamped Trinity Square would be used for the first time for a major religious, civic and community event.

Minster designation

Our post Churches, Minsters and Cathedrals considered the legal distinctions between the designation of Church of England churches, and cited Dr Sentamu’s statement on the present day designation of Minster status by the Church that:

“The status of Minster is an honorific title bestowed on major churches of regional significance in the Church of England, to reflect their importance and contribution to the local communities they serve”.

We noted that a parish church with the “Minster” designation is considered in law no differently from any other parish church unless it is also a cathedral, such as York Minster or Southwell Minster; it then falls within the legislative regime relating to cathedrals. The same reasoning applies to the designations Abbey, Priory, Collegiate church and Pro-Cathedral.

Dedication vs Consecration

The confusion surrounding the meaning of “Minster” is matched by that associated with “dedication” and “consecration”. Whilst the terms “dedication” and “consecration” are often perceived as being interchangeable, there is a significant legal difference between them. Briden comments that dedication:

“amounts in law to no more than an expression of pious intention. To be clothed with legal effect it is necessary that there should be a sentence of consecration by the bishop, which occurs only after the freehold of the land has been secured. Though in practice there is invariably a religious ceremony devised and performed by the bishop, the legal effect of consecration is brought about by his signing the sentence of consecration which is then lodged with the diocesan Registry “.

[Moore’s Introduction to English Canon Law, 4th edition, Ed Timothy Briden (2013 Bloomsbury), at page 121]

Consecration sets land and buildings aside in sacros usus and confers “an indelible mark, [the effects of which] can be removed only by Parliamentary statute, by synodical measure, or by episcopal action pursuant to these”, Re St Martin-le-Grand, York [1989] 2 All ER 711. The Church of Hull Holy Trinity was consecrated in 1425, and the forthcoming ceremony in May 2017 is for its re-dedication. The churchyard is said to have been consecrated earlier, in 1301, and was formally closed in 1855, although there are reports suggesting it continued to be used after this date.

Associated legal issues

Since before 2013, “cassock and council” discussions had been in progress with regard to developments the old city area of Kingston upon Hull and in particular to Holy Trinity church. The designation of Hull as UK City of Culture 2017 gave added impetus to these discussions, and was a relevant factor in the York consistory court’s considerations on the incorporation of the churchyard in the piazza surrounding the church, and the reordering of the church to permit greater flexibility and use by the community.

In 2015, a faculty was granted for the major re-ordering of churchyard, including removal of section of 19th century churchyard wall included in Grade I listing of the church. The Victorian Society objected strongly, although it did not become a party opponent, Re Holy Trinity Hull [2015] Peter Collier Ch. (York). However, the significant potential benefits of scheme to the church and community were deemed to outweigh moderate loss resulting from development.

The major reordering of the interior of the church was considered in Re Holy Trinity Hull [2017] ECC Yor 1, for which the Victorian Society was a party opponent, objecting principally to the proposed removal from the nave of “one of the most magnificent and extensive suites of Victorian church seating in the country”. Chancellor, Canon Peter Collier QC agreed:

“[50]. …given all that I have rehearsed of the evidence I have no hesitation in concluding that the loss of the permanent fully-pewed state of the nave will be a serious loss to this aspect of the Victorian heritage which forms a part of the architectural and historical heritage of Hull Holy Trinity”.

Nevertheless, in weighing the benefits which the proposals would bring against any loss to the historical and architectural importance of the church, he had to consider the evidence of the petitioners as to the financial viability of the church, if the works were not carried out. On balance he determined in favour of the petitioners and granted a faculty.


Changing the church’s title from “Holy Trinity, Hull” [or more formally “The Church of The Most Holy and Undivided Trinity, Kingston Upon Hull”] to “Hull Minster” requires no new secular or ecclesiastical legal enactments (other than those where the Minster use its name is used in formal documentation). Consequently, there are few, if any, legal niceties to be observed during the “Minster-making” ceremony.


The Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) grabs the newsworthiness of the preliminaries in its headline Archbishop’s flotilla to reclassification of England’s largest parish church. It explains:

“Dr John Sentamu, will head towards England’s largest parish church on a lifeboat next month. He will be joined by a flotilla of boats from pleasure crafts to police launches for the re-classification of Holy Trinity Church in Hull as Hull Minster. Dr Sentamu will carry with him a lantern lit at All Saint’s Church in Hessle, Holy Trinity’s mother church, for the historic ceremony” .

“The Archbishop will travel down the River Humber on board the William Riley, an historic Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) heritage lifeboat for the five-mile journey down the River Humber from Hessle Haven to Hull Marina, with a crew from the RNLI at the oars.

On arrival, Dr Sentamu will join the Bishop of Hull, Alison White, in a procession to the re-vamped Trinity Square, a public space outside the church, for an open-air minster-making service. The lantern will then be taken inside the newly-designated minister where it will be used to light a symbolic candle”.

The arrangements acknowledge the medieval origins of Holy Trinity and also celebrate Hull’s maritime heritage in what will be one of the keynote events during Hull’s year as UK City of Culture 2017. All Saints Church was established during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154) and later founded Holy Trinity in 1285, as a “chapel of ease” in the growing settlement of Wyke. People continued to travel to All Saints from Wyke, which was granted royal charter status and became Kings Town upon Hull in 1299, for weddings and funerals and other important services, sometimes by boat.

Minster-making service

The minster-making service will be led by Archbishop Sentamu, with the formal proclamation that Holy Trinity has been rededicated as Hull Minster, delivered by the Registrar of the Province of York, Caroline Mockford. Following the service, guests and members of the community will file into the church to witness the lantern lighting a symbolic candle in the heart of Holy Trinity.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Minster-making in Hull" in Law & Religion UK, 13 April 2017, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2017/04/13/minster-making-in-hull/

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