On the hunt for York Minster’s Bosses

It’s the end of cycling day two and we’ve arrived in the charming city of York. Whenever I visit places like this where the layers of history are still evident in the architecture and street patterns I think about how cities like Bristol and Coventry must have been before the blitz and disastrous post-war reconstructions. The streets of York are crammed with lovely buildings and a real sense of place and identity that is so often recently lost in many of Britain’s ‘any-town’ high streets. After checking into our hotel we went for a stroll to see the Minster. When I was ten I entered a Blue Peter competition to design a boss for the new roof in York Minster’s south transept to replace the one destroyed by fire in July 1984. For those not familiar with medieval ceiling construction, a boss is the wooden roundal where the ceiling trusses join. Bosses in medieval buildings were often ornately decorated with religious and pagan imagery. The competition asked for designs to commemorate significant moments of the twentieth century. I recall my design featured a dove and World War One poppies, (I was obviously quite a deep thinking ten year old), to commemorate the 1918 armistice. My design was not a winner. However, I was a runner up! My prize included some Viking coins (York was a Viking settlement), a piece of burnt boss from the original roof of the South Transept roof and of course a Blue Peter badge (although I’ve always been miffed that it wasn’t a proper ship on shield shaped BP badge, but rather a round button one). This is my first trip to York since not winning the competition, so naturally I was hoping to check out the winning designs. York Minster has other ideas of course … they were closed at 6.30pm when we arrived – on a Sunday as well! Is it any wonder church attendance is dwindling when the local Tesco express has longer opening hours! So I’ll just have to come back to see the bosses another time (and hope the Minster isn’t ignited by lightening again before then!).

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