On Sunday 30 May during the 11.00 Eucharist, thirty-four-year-old Esther Lycett was admitted as Head Verger of Salisbury Cathedral, the first woman to hold the post in the history of the Cathedral.
Born and raised in Dublin, Esther attended St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir and Grammar Schools as a member of the Cathedral Girls' Choir. She went on to read Biblical and Theological Studies at Trinity College Dublin, eventually joining St. Patrick’s Cathedral as a verger.
In 2019, after eleven years working as a verger in Dublin, Esther took up a verger’s post here in Salisbury; it felt like a natural progression. As a child Esther often spent holidays in the southwest of England visiting her grandparents, coming to Salisbury and the Cathedral regularly.
Speaking about her new role as Head Verger, Esther Lycett said:
“I am very excited about this new opportunity. It is a great honour to be part of a tradition of verging in this Cathedral dating back centuries. I have settled very nicely into the community and hope to be here for many years to come.”
Canon Anna Macham, Salisbury Cathedral’s Precentor, who is responsible for Music and Worship said:
“I am delighted that Esther has been appointed as Head Verger. She is already a member of our vestry team and brings many gifts and a huge amount of experience to this new role, both from her time at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and more recently here. We look forward very much to all that she will bring to this post.”
Esther heads up a team of four vergers responsible for preparing the Cathedral for services, which in pre Covid times could involve congregations of up to 1700. Vergers can also be seen leading the processions during services bearing their verge or rod. Hundreds of years ago, when cathedrals were a general meeting places as well as centres of worship, the verger would have used the verge to clear path through the crowd ahead of the procession.
The present-day Vestry team have range of specialist responsibilities, including maintaining Cathedral vestments, overseeing the maintenance of both the medieval clock and Cathedral’s turret clocks, and caring for Cathedral treasures associated with Worship such as chalices for Holy Communion. During the pandemic they have also been responsible for cleaning the Cathedral regularly as part of the Cathedral’s Covid safety practices and managing service bookings.
No-one knows how far back the job of verger goes. There are references to vergers, or individuals carrying out verger duties, at Salisbury Cathedral in the 13th century. Back in 1866, according to records in the Cathedral archive, the vergers were placed on an annual salary and charged with providing guided tours for visitors at a cost 6d per person, which went towards the upkeep of the Cathedral. A further 6d was charged if they went up the Tower.
Sadly, Tower Tours have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, but the Cathedral is open to visitors from Monday – Saturday and guides are on hand to answer questions. Tickets can be purchased via the Cathedral website.