Obituary: the Very Revd Peter Haynes

by
23 March 2018

PA

Dean Haynes at the launch of Mappa Mundi PLC, on 26 April 1989

Dean Haynes at the launch of Mappa Mundi PLC, on 26 April 1989

The Dean of Hereford writes:

IN THE minds of many, the Very Revd Peter Haynes, Dean of Hereford Cathedral from 1982 to 1992, who died on 17 March, aged 92, will be associated with the challenges in 1988-89 of displaying and caring for Mappa Mundi, when the possibility of selling this treasure was considered by Hereford Chapter. Although they faced huge criticism at the time, the actions of Peter Haynes and his colleagues raised the awareness of this unique part of Hereford’s heritage, secured its better and more creative presentation, and paved the way for improved accountability and robust regulation in the wider cathedral world.

Peter Haynes was born in 1925, and, after education at St Brendan’s College, founded by the Irish Christian Brothers, he went up to Selwyn College, Cambridge, to study theology; he took a first with distinction. Proceeding to Cuddesdon Theological College, he was ordained in 1952, and served a curacy at Hessle, followed by an incumbency in the dockland parish St John’s, Drypool, both in the diocese of York. Peter went on to serve for almost 20 years in the diocese of Bath & Wells, as youth chaplain and assistant director of religious education, Vicar of St. John’s, Glastonbury, and finally as Archdeacon of Wells and Canon Residentiary at Wells Cathedral, and a governor of Wells Cathedral School. He also taught divinity part-time at Millfield School.

Gordon TaylorDean Haynes, photographed in Hereford Cathedral cloisters.

Appointed Dean of Hereford Cathedral in 1982, he followed the scholarly Norman Rathbone, and concentrated on developing the cathedral’s community and congregation. The installation of the nave altar on a plinth at the tower crossing — a significant intervention — now made the eucharist the centre of community life, as well as the principal act of worship on Sunday mornings.

Humanity was at his very heart: Peter was always open and friendly; he welcomed newcomers and had an extraordinary ability to make others feel valued and special. Along with so many clergy, he had a passion for railways, and his model railway (he built his own steam engines), which he installed in the Deanery garden, delighted him as well as many younger visitors to the cathedral.

Many deans undergo their own purgatorio. For one of his predecessors, Dean Robin Price, it was the removal of Hereford’s Victorian screen in 1967. Certainly, for many, Peter will be associated with the proposed sale of Mappa Mundi in 1988-89. The Chapter of the time was experiencing severe financial problems, and, despite an appeal in the mid-1980s, challenges continued. Indeed, a firm of consultants predicted that £7 million was needed to solve the cathedral’s problems: to clear the overdraft; to finance urgent fabric repairs; to endow the choral foundation; to provide adequate staffing, and to provide a building for an imaginative display of the historic treasures. These were huge financial problems, and Hereford was only one of many cathedrals facing similar difficulties.

The 13th-century Mappa Mundi was identified as a possible important source of funding, and discussions were held on its possible sale.

Possibly fired by a Daily Telegraph image of Peter with Lord Guthrie, Chair of Sotheby’s, holding Mappa Mundi between them, there was a national outcray. Newspapers ran the story for weeks, and, in Hereford, the Mayor and Council petitioned the Queen to save the map for the city.

In the end, Mappa Mundi was saved for Hereford by a large grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and a generous gift from J. Paul Getty. These grants enabled the cathedral to have a dedicated building for the housing of Mappa Mundi and the cathedral’s unique chained library, and set up an endowment to care for the treasures for the future. Plans were in place before Peter’s retirement, and the Mappa building was completed in 1996.

Undoubtedly, the Mappa Mundi crisis was a dark time for Peter and his colleagues on the Chapter, but, throughout the commotion, they acted in good faith, very conscious of their responsibility to the “greater treasure” of the cathedral itself. From this crisis emerged not only a splendid new building for Hereford, but also new national safeguards for cathedral fabric and associated treasures, with the institution of a fabric advisory committee for each cathedral, and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, to exercise oversight of all cathedrals.

At the same time, Lincoln Cathedral was having its own purgatorio with serious relational difficulties, and it may be that Lincoln and Hereford together provided the impetus for the 1994 report Heritage and Renewal, and the subsequent Cathedrals Measure of 2000, with its new governance structures for cathedrals across the land. The crisis also shone a spotlight on the financial difficulties of our cathedrals — problems which are still very much with us today.

In retirement, Peter and his wife, Ruth, returned to Somerset, and rekindled their love of Wells, being frequently present at events for the Friends of Wells Cathedral. In 2004, they moved back to Hereford. For a lesser person, returning to the scene of some unhappiness might have been a trial, but affection and respect for Peter far outweighed any such concerns. Within a month of their move, Ruth, sadly, died, but Peter found himself among friends, who supported and cared for him.

He continued to be involved in cathedral worship and life, made new friends, and, at the age of 85, bought a Mercedes-Benz convertible, in which he cut quite a dash as he drove into the Cathedral Close. Always young at heart, he took guitar lessons and began to study German. For his 90th birthday, his sons, Richard and Michael, arranged a display of Aston Martin cars in the Close, and Peter and I were photographed together in one of them.

In reflecting on Peter’s life and influence, many people will be united in their thanks to God for a loving and dedicated priest, and also one who placed himself “on the line” in a time of crisis, and whose actions enabled those who followed to benefit from his patience, vision, and courage.

Those of us who serve in Hereford today are very aware of a verse from St John’s Gospel: “Jesus said: I sent you to reap a crop for which you have not toiled. Others toiled and you have entered into their labours.”

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Church Times: about us

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read up to twelve articles for free. (You will need to register.)