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Nine Lessons and Carols service created in Truro in 1880

By West Briton  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

  • The wooden building that served as Truro Cathedral in 1880 when the first Nine Lessons and Carols service was created.

  • The first Bishop of Truro, Edward White Benson, who devised Nine Lessons and Carols.

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A PIECE of Christmas history was made at Truro Cathedral more than 130 years ago.

The first Nine Lessons and Carols service was devised by the first Bishop of Truro, Edward White Benson, in 1880, and has gone on to be adopted around the country.

This year the cathedral is recreating the original service in a celebration of Truro's role in the creation of the Christmas event.

The innovative service first took place at Truro Cathedral on Christmas Eve in 1880.

The format quickly travelled to other churches and its place in history was secured when Eric Milner-White adapted it for King's College, Cambridge from where it has been broadcast almost annually on Christmas Eve since 1928.

Christopher Gray, Truro Cathedral's director of music, said: "Millions of people tune in to hear the broadcast from King's College, Cambridge each year, and millions more attend a Nine Lessons service in person. Benson's format has travelled across the globe and we have recently been piecing together exactly what the origins of this great institution are."

In 1880, Truro Cathedral was in the earliest stages of its construction so the Nine Lessons service took place in a wooden structure where services were held until 1887. Some 400 people crammed in to hear carols, readings, several anthems from Handel's Messiah and various prayers and blessings.

Mr Gray said: "Piecing together what took place at 10pm on Christmas Eve in 1880 has been fascinating.

"My own interest in those earliest days of the cathedral was ignited by Michael Swift, stained-glass adviser to the Diocese of Truro, who is currently researching a book on Benson.

"Michael has presented a number of fascinating lectures in recent years and it seemed a good time to revisit this specific event from 1880.

The service at 7pm on Tuesday is free to attend and all are welcome. There will be a talk on the reconstruction at 6pm and the congregation is asked to be seated by 6.30pm at the latest for a rehearsal in advance of the 7pm start. The service will be webcast.

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  • cornishgirl  |  December 14 2013, 1:34PM

    Wow! What a piece of history and that photograph, I would like to nip back in time to see exactly what Truro looked like then. Hope it all goes well and Merry Christmas to everybody.

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