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5 July 2012
Famous medieval service book returned to Wollaton church in virtual form

A rare medieval service book is being unveiled in ‘virtual form’ in the Nottingham parish church where it was used during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

The famous Wollaton Antiphonal was made for Sir Thomas Chaworth, the richest man in Nottinghamshire, in about 1430. It is a large and beautifully illustrated manuscript full of medieval liturgy and choral music and was used in St Leonard’s Church in Wollaton, Nottingham which acquired it after his death.

The Antiphonal has been in the care of The University of Nottingham’s Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections to ensure its preservation but now, thanks to modern technology, a virtual version is being returned to the church so that everyone can enjoy the sounds and sights of this historic treasure.

Now an interactive computer application called Turning the Pages has been used to transfer digital images of the Antiphonal and some of the chants sung by the choir of St Leonard’s to a kiosk which can be used by the public to explore the sights and sounds of the medieval service book.

Rector of St Leonard’s, Canon Jerry Lepine, said:”St Leonard’s is hugely grateful to The University of Nottingham for the conservation work on the Wollaton Antiphonal as well as the ‘virtual Antiphonal’ that will now be available in the church. It is thrilling to know that this magnificent volume is ‘coming home’ and can now be available to a wider public. It is a significant part of our story that can now be told in an accessible way to adults and children alike.”

Dr Dorothy Johnston, Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham added: “Giving access to the Antiphonal through digitised images has really transformed its accessibility - users of the kiosk can zoom in on the decorations, learn from notes about the meaning of the different pages, and even listen to members of Wollaton choir singing chants from the manuscript.  It's been a great project."

Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre from the University’s School of English has carried out extensive research on the Antiphonal. He said: “The Wollaton Antiphonal is one of the hidden treasures of Nottingham, so I was delighted when support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council gave us the opportunity to develop the "virtual antiphonal" so that everyone can enjoy turning its glorious pages."

In a double celebration, Canon Levine will be climbing onto the church roof for a short ceremony to thank the local community for raising money to replace a substantial part of the lead roof which was stolen last year. £31,000 was collected in just three months to pay for alternative material roofing to be laid.  

The events are part of the Wollaton Heritage Weekend organised by Wollaton Hall, St Leonard’s Church and the Wollaton Historical Society. Members of the Society will be giving guided history walks around Wollaton in the afternoon. On Sunday the church plays host to Lord and Lady Middleton, whose family used to own Wollaton Hall, and whose ancestors are immortalised in ancient monuments at the church.

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