Chichester cathedral: Historical survey

Pages 105-113

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



At the time of the Norman Conquest, the cathedral of the South Saxon see was at Selsey, and it was to this see that the first Norman bishop, Stigand, was consecrated in 1070. Either in anticipation, or as a result of the decree of the Council of London in 1075, which required the removal of the seats of bishoprics from villages to towns, Stigand abandoned Selsey for Chichester. (fn. 1) Here, according to a somewhat confused record of the chronicler William of Malmesbury, there had already existed an ancient minster dedicated to St. Peter. (fn. 2) From the fact that the dedication of St. Peter survived for the parochial altar in the nave of the cathedral, it would seem that the site of the church of the Saxon minster was situated within the walls of the Norman cathedral. In this connection it is worth noting that the early13th-century chapter seal (fn. 3) of Chichester shows a preConquest church and the legend 'Templum Justicie' below, the design of which was probably taken from an earlier seal. This design may be merely an arbitrary representation of a church or possibly the building at Selsey, but a third alternative is that it portrays a Saxon church at Chichester.

There seems to be no evidence that a new church was begun before the consecration of Bishop Ralph de Luffa to the see in 1091; we are told that he built the church from the ground, (fn. 4) and again that he had newly built (a novo fecerat) the church. (fn. 5) Further, it is unlikely that he started on the work immediately after his consecration, for he was engaged in a serious dispute with William Rufus on behalf of Anselm, during which he offered to resign his see. It was not, therefore, until Henry I had come to the throne in 1100 and Anselm had returned to Canterbury, that the bishop would have felt secure enough in his office to begin the new church; nevertheless the work had advanced sufficiently to enable him to dedicate it in 1108. (fn. 6) Six years later, namely, on 5 May 1114, the cathedral and city, it is said, were consumed by fire. (fn. 7) It would seem, however, that the fire did little more than retard the work on the church, which in a short time was rebuilt, chiefly by the liberality of King Henry I. (fn. 8) It is to Ralph de Luffa, who died in 1123, that we owe the main part of the fabric of the present cathedral. His successors, Seffrid I (d. 1147), Hilary (d. 1169), and John (d. 1180), are not mentioned in connection with the building of the church, but the work gradually continued so that Bishop Seffrid II was able to consecrate the church on 3 October 1184. (fn. 9)

Bishopric of Chichester. Azure Our Lord enthroned with a sword issuing from His mouth proper.

The church as at first planned consisted of a nave of eight bays with aisles and two western towers; north and south aisleless transepts, each of three bays and each apparently having an apsidal eastern chapel, and an aisled presbytery of three bays with apse and ambulatory. There is some uncertainty, however, regarding the progress of the work and development of the plan up to the date of the consecration of 1184. The four western bays of the nave are obviously of later erection than the eastern arm and transept, and the west towers must have been still later. The whole of the early-12th-century building, the work attributable to Bishop Ralph de Luffa, is on severely practical and austere lines without any unnecessary embellishments, except perhaps where the masons gave free play to their imaginations in the corbelling of the parapets. Inside there was apparently nothing in the architecture that could be called decorative, and it is only in the triforium of the eastern arm that a little variation or ornament of the mildest form can be seen in the capitals, as well as in the four western bays of the nave.

Again, the south-west tower is the only part that contains a specimen of the later 12th-century characteristic cheveron ornament, in its south doorway. No doubt the west wall of the nave contained a doorway of the same kind, as this would also have been one of the last parts to be built, but if so, it either suffered from exposure to the weather or it was not considered fine enough to overcome the desire for change, less than two centuries later. The reset doorway in the Residentiary in Canon Lane may possibly have been the original west doorway, preserved there.

The original north wall of the north aisle (and probably the south wall also) appears to have been arcaded. The north doorway was probably in the same position as the present one. An early base of a shaft west of the doorway yet remains which may very well have belonged to the earlier doorway, although its size and section correspond closely with the bases of the angle shafts to the buttresses of the towers. The doorway also appears to have had a porch, judging from the masonry.

Opinions differ as to the original form of the east end of the Norman ambulatory and quire of Ralph de Luffa's church, whether they were apsidal, like Gloucester, or with square-ended aisles like Winchester. The late Prof. Willis and most other authorities support the apsidal theory. (fn. 10)

A base or plinth found under the floor of the retroquire in 1861 is thought to have settled the question in favour of an apse for the main body, and to have fixed the point from which the arc sprang. The plinth, however, proved to be a little farther west than had been surmised by Prof. Willis, who had naturally based his conjectural plan on the existing remains of early wide-jointed masonry in the second bay of the aisles, where there also appeared to be signs of the beginning of the apsidal curvature. He began his arc from the ends of this early walling, about central with the bay, but, if the base under the floor really indicates the true springing line, the curves of the aisles or ambulatory must have been stilted in comparison with that of the main body. The fact that this stilting was not probable may possibly be conceived as a point in favour of the square-ended aisles, but obviously the points where this older walling finishes could not have been the original east angles. To preserve the parallel with Winchester, the angles must have been where the present aisles end (excluding the eastern chapels). On the other hand, it seems highly improbable that, when so much was preserved, the angles and walling east of the above-mentioned points should have been so completely demolished from almost exactly the same positions in both north and south aisles. East of these points there are no remains of the original masonry, corbeltabling or windows.

There are heads of rough arches in the east walls of the aisles above the vaulting, across the mouths of the two eastern chapels. These can only be seen in the triforium gallery and have a very primitive appearance. The arches, however, would be rendered necessary to carry the superstructure when the chapels were added. It is doubtful whether they would be required in the original east walls.

Furthermore, accepting the springing line of the apse as being governed by the exposed base, the eastward positions of vault-shafts between the first and second bays (see the description below) seem to have been ruled by the pre-existing apse. But at the back of the triforium arcade on the north side are the remains of an arch which extended eastwards into the second bay and therefore was presumably part of the apse of the main body.

There is no evidence as to the spans and form of the apsidal arcades—whether with round columns (as shown by Prof. Willis) such as occur nowhere else in the building of the first period, or with square piers and engaged shafts—but this fragment, with its higher abacus and arch, points to a series of loftier arches in the triforium stage, perhaps single arches instead of coupled. As suggested in the description given later, the cant in the wall over the triforium seems hardly pronounced enough for the beginning of an apsidal curve, and it brings one back to the conjecture that the springing line of the curve of the apse was placed farther eastwards, as indicated by Prof. Willis, in spite of the existence of the base below the floor of the retro-quire.

The triforium windows in the second bay of the aisles are not central, and their westward positions were taken as evidence by Prof. Willis that the apse had projecting chapels like Gloucester, but no other evidence has been found on the site to confirm this, although search has been made.

There would have been three of these chapels, the central chapel being originally of the same size as the others. The central chapel was rebuilt or lengthened later in the 12th century, perhaps about 1180, to form the present three west bays of the Lady Chapel. It must therefore be considered to possess the earliest example of quadripartite vaulting in the cathedral.

The main body of the 12th-century church had wooden ceilings like Peterborough and St. Albans, but the side aisles had groined vaulting on cross-arches as at Norwich. The responds and cross-arches were apparently of greater thickness at the west end of the aisles than the eastern part, and close to the towerarches there still remain wall-shafts which probably served partly to carry the cross-arches against the towers. There were also similar arches in the triforia, the responds of which still exist. (fn. 11)

The material used in all these works is said to have come chiefly from Quarr Abbey in the Isle of Wight.

Although one sees no traces of the damage done by the fire of 1114, the results are far more obvious of the much more serious fire which took place on 20 October 1187, in which the city, the bishop's palace and the canons' houses were all involved. (fn. 12)

This fire seems to have occurred at a time when an enlargement of the cathedral was being carried out, and since the chief damage was to the interior owing to the collapse of the blazing roofs, opportunity was taken in the subsequent rebuilding to effect certain changes in the internal detail, which were most ingeniously contrived. The work was carried out under Bishop Seffrid II, who seems to have shown the greatest energy in his task.

The repairs to the damaged parts were effected with strict economy, the burnt surface of the masonry of the piers and arcades being scaled and refaced with Caen stone ashlar, including the outer orders of the arches towards the main body, but the remainder of the stonework of each pier and arch was left unaltered. The Purbeck marble shafts which replaced the engaged shafts towards the quire and nave may perhaps be considered the only piece of extravagance on this work of necessary repair, and it is probably more noticeable because of the contrast with the extremely simple plain masonry of the earlier unaltered parts of the piers and arches. The use of Purbeck marble for the shafts may be assigned in part to about the date 1206, when King John gave licence for a year to Bishop Simon de Wells to fetch his marble for the repair of the cathedral, by sea, from Purbeck to Chichester. (fn. 13)

The triforia arcades were barely damaged and were left unchanged, but the clearstory, which must have suffered very severely from the burning wood roofs, was almost entirely remodelled, only the actual windows being left unaltered.

In the west half of the nave there is a difference in detail in the later reconstruction as well as in the earlier work. This part may well have suffered less harm from the fire owing to the absence of stalls or other woodwork on the floor. It is not improbable that while the eastern part and the crossing were perhaps in ruins, the western part of the nave was in a sufficiently good condition to be temporarily fitted up for services during the work of renovation. When the eastern part was finished and in use, the refacing of the walls of the western half of the nave, more or less to match, was almost immediately proceeded with, before the vaulting was erected over the whole.

The scheme for vaulting, which is of quadripartite design throughout the building, was the natural concomitant of the desire to have no more to do with inflammable wood ceilings, and this form of construction had already been begun in the Lady Chapel, erected just before the fire of 1187.

The vaulting of the main body necessitated the strengthening of the aisle-buttresses and the provision of flying buttresses to resist the thrust on the walls; the original cross-arches in the triforia, being no longer required, were demolished. The flying buttresses to the south aisle of the nave are in two separate stages one below the other and concealed by the triforium roof; but elsewhere in the eastern arm and nave one arch was considered sufficient, although some have had to be reinforced by a lower arch in contact with the original soffits.

The transept, being divided in each arm into two bays, instead of the original three, had to be furnished with new buttresses, but, having no aisles, flying arches were not required.

The re-dedication of the church by Bishop Seffrid II, in the presence of six other bishops, took place on 12 September 1199, (fn. 14) only twelve years after the fire, and it is very doubtful if the vaulting or even the whole of the repairs were finished by then. Probably the actual repairs and vaulting over the eastern arm were completed, and although it was said that Bishop Seffrid, at the time of his death in 1204, had rebuilt the church at great expense, (fn. 15) it seems certain that the vaulting over the aisles and the western arm was still being carried on well into the 13th century, possibly to the time of Bishop Ralph Neville (1224–44), who collected much money for the fabric of the church. (fn. 16) In the case of the aisles, it is evident that the damage was less than in the main body, as no repairs were needed to the outer faces of the arcades, and therefore it may be assumed that the cross-arches and vaults were still good there. It was simply a desire to make the aisles conform to the new ideas that led to their alteration. Not being an urgent matter, this could proceed more slowly; for example, the vaulting of the south aisle of the eastern arm may not have been erected before the middle of the 13th century.

Neville. Gules a saltire argent.

With the work of repair there arose the desire to lengthen the eastern arm by two bays and to make the east end of the main body square. Here there was little to restrict the aims and tastes of the builder, and it is therefore here that are found the most beautiful details of the Transitional 12th–13th century period in the cathedral, without being in any way a violent contrast to the older design.

Probably the lengthening was begun from the east and the junction effected with the older walls when the work was far enough advanced. Whether it was actually contemporary with the renovations is uncertain, but it seems improbable that the dedication of 1199 would have taken place without at least the lower part of it being in a fit condition to be included in the new sacrarium. It is quite obvious that the clearstory of these two bays is of a different period from that of the remodelling of the original clearstory west of it, whether earlier or later. It probably shows a greater difference than would occur in a period of twelve years, although it may be assumed that after the fire of 1187 Bishop Seffrid would have devoted most of his energies to the completion of a sanctuary fit for services and left the further work on the church to be treated in due course.

The eastern chapels of St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene were probably added slightly later, and during the following three or four decades many other changes were effected. These include the building or rebuilding of the north and south porches, the addition of the chapels east of the transept, the northern at least in place of a pre-existing apse, and the building of the sacristy west of the south arm.

It is not easy to place the exact sequence of these works, but that they were not all built at one time is evident from their details. Perhaps the earliest change was the south porch, which may even have preceded the fire; but it is a peculiarly difficult piece of architecture to date. Its mouldings lack much of the subtlety and grace of the contours seen in other parts of the building and there are indications of an early date in the walling and particularly in the carved heads of monsters in the entrance archway, yet the foliated capitals are less conventional and 'stiff' than elsewhere. Perhaps the masons, familiar with the fashioning of 12th-century grotesques, etc., had not yet acquired the skill shown by the 13th-century craftsmen in their more developed and finished mouldings. It is possible, on the other hand, that the porch was later remodelled in part and that the present mouldings are the work of later 'restorers' who were very thorough in their methods, but it is interesting to compare the mouldings with those of the chapel in the bishop's palace, which seem to be by the same hand. The porch was originally gabled, the upper story, used as a treasury or 'secret chamber,' being a later alteration.

The south doorway is a better piece of workmanship than the porch and is evidently of a later decade or two, perhaps displacing a 12th-century doorway after the porch had been erected.

The north porch is not of the same date as the south and is a rather more finished piece of work so far as its mouldings are concerned. It is more likely to have followed the south porch than to have preceded it, as there seems to have been already a porch existing, although this was not quite of the earliest period of the early-12th-century fabric, judging from the evidence of a pre-existing window above the north doorway. One shaft-base of the 12th century exists west of the doorway, but whether it belonged to a doorway or one of the tower buttresses is uncertain: it corresponds in size and contour with the bases of the latter.

One criterion for dating the other parts of the building may perhaps be the sections of the vaulting ribs, which vary, although they may not always be coeval with the walls beneath them. For instance, the ribs of the easternmost bay of the eastern arm and the south arm of the transept, which are enriched with dog-tooth ornament and are not keeled, are probably later than the ribs of the west bays of the sanctuary, while those of the north arm of the transept may be of a date between the two. Again, the ribs of the aisles may be later than those of the main body.

Partly on this evidence and on the early appearance of the walling inside, and also the existence of a shallow buttress to its south wall, it may be assumed that the square chapel of St. Pantaleon was one of the earliest additions. Possibly it may have been one of the works that were being executed when the great fire of 1187 occurred, although it is certain that it was remodelled at a later period. It may have displaced an apse, but of this there is no remaining evidence. The chapel, now the Canons' Vestry, was evidently free on its three outer sides, but it was soon decided to fill in the small pocket which had been left between it and the south aisle by what is now the Priest-vicars' Vestry, perhaps to serve as a vestry. The heightening of this chamber as a 'watching chamber' may have been done subsequently, in the 14th century.

The chapel of the Four Virgins, (fn. 17) now the Library, was probably the next to be added, in the place of a round apse, part of which remains in the upper story. (fn. 18) Its date is probably about 1210–20 and, perhaps profiting from the experience gained from the earlier addition of St. Pantaleon's chapel, it was decided to fill the whole space up to the aisle wall instead of leaving a pocket. The result was the beautiful double-aisled structure we see to-day, containing the only actually free column in the cathedral, apart from window-shafts and the like. There is a curious mixture of styles here, for while the windows are carved with dog-tooth ornament, the vault-ribs exhibit the typical zigzag ornament of the 12th century. The chamber above seems to have been of the same period, inasmuch as the stairvice which leads up to it is part of the same work as the vaulting, but the chamber was altered subsequently. It is suggested by Walcott that this chamber was the original library or muniment room, and its importance may be inferred by the lofty roof which once covered it, the marks of which remain on the north arm of the transept. Another point, noticed by Willis, is that the aisle-buttress, seen within the library, was one work with the vaulting-shaft attached to it. As this buttress was required to resist the aisle vault as well as to carry the flying buttress, it may not have been till after the erection of this chamber that the aisle-vaulting, at least, was erected in place of the earlier groined vault.

The next addition to be considered is the sacristy on the west side of the south arm. Here the buttresses to the aisle and transept were probably already in position, and use was made of them, in vaulting the chamber, to reduce the span. But owing to the width of its west wall, the vault against it was divided into two bays, so that instead of the usual quadripartite plan, the bay is divided into five compartments. Being intended for more utilitarian ends than the chapels, its vault-ribs were not moulded, and apart from the carving in the corbels and bosses, it is a very plain piece of architecture. It is probably the work of about 1232 upon which Bishop Ralph Neville expended considerable sums. (fn. 19) When the sacristy was erected there seems to have been some kind of remodelling of the south porch, or at least its south wall was refaced with ashlar which courses with the masonry of the west wall of this chamber, and is quite different from that inside the porch.

There was a gabled chamber above the sacristy which has left its mark on the west wall of the transept : whether this upper story was contemporary or later is uncertain as it was all cleared away when the present upper chamber, serving as the chapter house, was erected some time in the 15th century. A new wide stair-turret to serve this chamber was inserted north-east of it, next the transept, and entered from the south aisle. Presumably the entrance to the earlier upper chamber was by the vice south-west of the transept.

It must have been about the same time or very soon afterwards that the scheme was initiated for adding the chapels flanking the nave-aisles. The idea began apparently with the addition of the one-bay chapel of St. Thomas and St. Edmund off the second bay of the north aisle. This chapel was free on its three outer sides, and when it was erected there seems to have been no immediate intention of extending the scheme westwards. It is said that St. Richard (de Wych), who was bishop from 1245 to 1253 and previously to that a follower of St. Edmund (Rich), was buried near the altar of the Blessed Edmund which he himself had consecrated. (fn. 20) St. Edmund died in 1242 and was canonised in 1246, and therefore the consecration is fixed at between 1246 and 1253. But the style of the architecture is suggestive of a somewhat earlier period and it is more probably the work of Bishop Ralph Neville (1224–44); possibly he dedicated it to St. Thomas of Canterbury alone, and the dedication to St. Edmund was added after his canonisation in 1246.

The vaulting of this chapel is earlier than that of the two south chapels of St. Clement and St. George, which must have followed almost immediately. This was a great task involving the piercing of the outer walls of the aisle with a new arcade of four bays, and the alteration to the main buttresses, etc. The arcades were probably begun before the outer walls of the chapels and the cross-arches were erected, and from its details it is quite probable that the easternmost arch preceded the others. Each chapel was of two bays and separated by a solid cross-wall, the chapels themselves being divided by moulded arches like the arcades, but having a slightly later appearance. Each chapel was furnished with a reredos incorporated in the walling as in the chapel of SS. Thomas and Edmund, but here the capitals are rounded instead of square, a sign generally (in this building) of later work.

This addition may have proceeded less rapidly than some of the other parts, because its vaulting shows no difference from that of the two later northern chapels, which are attributed to St. Theobald and St. Anne, each of two bays like the others, but separated by a low wall across an open archway instead of a solid wall. The arcade of four bays, which was cut through the north aisle wall, was based in general appearance on those to the other chapels but with later details, probably of about 1269, when chantries were founded at the altars of the Four Virgins and St. Anne. (fn. 21) And again the transverse arches between the bays of each chapel differ in their north and south responds, and it is probable that here the outer north wall was built first to match those of the south wall and that the piercing of the original north aisle wall was a subsequent operation. Each of the two chapels had a reredos modelled more or less on that in SS. Thomas and Edmund's Chapel, that to St. Anne's being against or rather in the low dividing wall between the two chapels. It is noticeable that all the four double-bayed chapels have vaulting of the same detail, later than that of the north-east chapel. Both the north and south chapels had a gable-end to each bay originally, and the buttresses of the main walls were carried out to the outer walls (over the transverse arches and cross-walls), the new buttresses being weighted with pinnacles and the water from the main roofs discharged through spouts in the later additions.

In 1210 a misfortune occurred in the fall of two towers during a great storm which wrecked the towers of Bury St. Edmunds and Evesham. (fn. 22) That the southwest tower was one of the two is borne out by the 13th-century additions to it in the form of deeper buttresses, the alterations to the third stageand the building of a new top stage, all of which appears to be work of about 1230–40. It is improbable that the other tower was that on the north-west, as no attempt apparently was ever made to strengthen it with buttresses, and it stood until about 1630. Apparently the tower referred to was the central tower. Prof. Willis states (fn. 23) that examination of the four Norman arches showed that they 'had been rebuilt with their own stones previously to the carrying up of the tower itself in the thirteenth century and probably a considerable portion of the piers also.' The Norman ornaments 'had not been properly re-set in rebuilding' and 'voussoirs of superiorly dressed Caen stone have been inserted every two feet in the arch . . . to supply the place of those unfit for use again.' Willis mentions this as one of the causes of the weakness which led to the calamity of 1861. It is therefore probable that this tower was partly rebuilt and perhaps the vaulting and superstructure were added at the same time, up to the parapet work, which may take us to about 1247, when the executors of Bishop Ralph Neville testified that the work on the belfry for which the bishop had advanced money had been completed. (fn. 24)

Bishop Ralph Neville was succeeded in 1245 by Richard de Wych (d. 1253), a man of great sanctity, who was buried in the nave of the cathedral at the pillar next the chapel of St. Thomas and St. Edmund. In 1276 he was canonised and his body was translated to the site of the present altar of St. Richard on the east side of the reredos of the high altar, with great ceremony, King Edward I, the queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury and many others being present. A shrine of silver gilt was erected and a watching loft (removed in 1820) was placed on the west side of the shrine. The bishop's head was preserved separately in a reliquary in an aumbry in the chapel of St. Mary Magdalene. Pilgrimages and offerings were made to the shrine, the head and the vacant tomb. (fn. 25) The offerings brought considerable sums to the cathedral, and on the destruction of the shrine in 1538 the ornaments and jewels were packed in seven boxes and consisted of 111 silver-gilt images, besides rings, jewels and precious stones. (fn. 26)

St. Richard of Chichester. Gules a cross between four covered cups argent.

The west porch was added probably in the second half of the 13th century. Walcott suggests that it was erected by Bishop Stephen de Berghsted (1262–87) and that the tomb in the south wall is his as a founder of the addition. There is a close resemblance between the details of the architecture of the porch and that of the outer aisle chapels.

With the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th century other works were carried through, the first being the lengthening of the Lady Chapel by Bishop Gilbert de Sancto Leofardo (1288–1304) (fn. 27) and the remodelling of the older part of it either by him or his successor. It may have been he also who inserted a new doorway in the west wall of the nave and new windows above it, and perhaps sundry other windows which replaced the smaller and earlier openings. Bishop John Langton (1305–1337), his successor, is credited with much work in the cathedral, but chiefly with the great south window to the transept, which shows a fine piece of tracery, but lacks some of the beautiful contours of the previous century in its mouldings and details. With the insertion of this window the south-east angle of the transept had to be considerably strengthened by buttressing. The heightening of the main roofs with the raising and strengthening of the parapets would also have occurred in his time, and the carved quire stalls may also have been part of his contribution to the furnishing of the church.

De Sancto Leofardo. Argent three bars gules with a cheveron azure over all.

Langton. Argent three cheverons gules.

The present chapter house, which is of a century later, has been attributed to Bishop Langton by a misunderstanding of the following entry in the Cathalogus: 'Item expendidit in domo capitulari Cicestr' ex parte australi in quodam muro et fenestr' a superficie terre usque ad summitatem constructis CCCXLI lib.' (fn. 28)

It is suggested that the interpretation of this entry should be that the bishop expended £341 on a wall and window on the south side in the chapter house [such wall and window being] constructed from the surface of the ground to the summit [of the wall]. (fn. 29) If this interpretation is accepted, it answers the longdisputed question as to the position of the early chapter house, for which the south transept, it would thus seem, was used, in the same way as the north transept was utilised for the chapter house at Wells. (fn. 30) Dean John Cloos (d. 1500) desired to be buried next the entrance (juxta ostium) of the chapter house, (fn. 31) and the tomb assigned to him stands near the entrance to the south transept. (fn. 32) On the plan of 1658 the chapel of St. Pantaleon is twice described as 'the chapel where the Kings are painted' and against St. Richard's Porch is written 'Door into the great cloisters which have three sides. The Chapter House opens into the King's Chapel.' If the chapel of St. Pantaleon was then known as the King's Chapel this entry implies that the south transept was the chapter house, as the only entry to the chapel is from the south transept. (fn. 33) Again, in 1637 there are references to 'the upper chapter house,' which probably refers to the existing chapter house, and in 1729 'to paving the great chapter house,' which may possibly have been the south transept. (fn. 34)

So far as the cathedral building is concerned, Langton's successor, Robert Stratford (1337–1362), is only known for the fine 'sacellum' or tomb canopy in the transept which is attributed to him.

We know that repairs were necessary in the time of Bishop William Rede (1368–85) from a papal indulgence of 1371 to those who visited and gave alms to the cathedral church of Chichester, which, it was said, was 'in need of costly repair.' (fn. 35) Probably the most important work of this date was the insertion of the large north window in the transept, in emulation of Langton's south window, but of less merit. It weakened the structure considerably and necessitated the addition of strong buttresses at the angles, particularly the flying buttress on the west side.

At a little later date the detached Bell Tower, or, as it was formerly called, Ryman's or Raymond's Tower, seems to have been erected. The late Gordon M. Hills, in his report on the cathedral in 1875, (fn. 36) suggested, on the evidence of the mention of a bell called 'Redemond' in a will of 1382, that the present tower replaced an earlier belfry. More certain evidence of the date of the building of the tower occurs in an entry in an ancient index among the cathedral records, where, under the date 1428, is a reference to an anniversary for Thomas Patching, mayor of Chichester in 1408, who gave 100 marks towards building the belfry commonly called Raymond's Tower. (fn. 37) Again in 1436 Peter Shelton left 20 marks for the fabric of the new belfry of the church of Chichester. From these entries we have an approximate date for the building of the tower, which agrees with the architectural evidence.

Another work which was probably of the early 15th century was the spire above the central tower, but there does not appear to be any recorded evidence of its erection. (fn. 38) The stability of the spire was a frequent source of anxiety, and it may be that the belfry was built to avoid the constant vibration of the bell-ringing in the central tower. In 1644 four bells from the 'meynell' or central tower were moved to the belfry. (fn. 39)

William Bolle, rector of Aldrington, in 1402, had licence to become a recluse and build a dwelling 29 ft. by 26 ft. in the churchyard on the north side of the Lady Chapel. (fn. 40)

The cloister is also of the 15th century. Gordon M. Hills gives the date for it as 1403 in his report, but does not state his authority. This date would be appropriate for the style of architecture especially in the east walk with the south doorway from the eastern arm, which was evidently inserted at the same time. It bears the arms of Bishop William of Wykeham. (fn. 41) It would seem that the south and west walks followed the east walk, for although the windows are alike throughout, the roofs differ.

The irregular lay-out of the cloister around the Paradise graveyard was governed entirely by the preexisting buildings of the close. The east walk may have been built only at first as a covered way to the Vicar's Close, otherwise it would have been an easier task to have made the walk nearly square with the church and thus to have avoided the necessity for cutting into the end of St. Faith's Chapel. The south walk was entirely ruled by the north walls of the houses of the King's Chaplains, etc., and the short west walk by the south porch and the old treasury building.

The only other addition of this time to the plan of the cathedral buildings appears to have been a lodging, for chantry priests or vicars, erected between the north arm of the transept and the chapel of SS. Thomas and Edmund; it was bounded on the north by the flying buttress against the transept, and corbels for its roof still remain on the buttress. (fn. 42) That the house was intended to be of a permanent character is shown by the determined manner in which the 13th-century buttress to the transept was pierced for a passage or doorway. The small doorway cut through the east wall of the chapel is evidently part of the same work. The whole building was subsequently removed and only a slight mark on the west wall of the transept and the evidence above mentioned are left to record its existence.

In the 15th century a screen or pulpitum was erected across the west end of the quire, in the first bay of the nave, no doubt displacing an earlier screen. This work is attributed to Bishop John Arundel (1459–1477); it was of three bays, the middle containing the entrance to the quire; the side bays were fitted with the nave-altars, the northern dedicated to St. Augustine and the Holy Cross and the southern to St. Mary at Stock. The great rood above it was later displaced by the organ. Walcott suggests that owing to the building of the Arundel screen, the parochial altar of St. Peter Subdeanery, which had been in the nave (fn. 43) since the church was built, was moved to the north transept between 1481 and 1509. (fn. 44) The alternative suggestion made by the Very Rev. A. S. Duncan-Jones, the present dean, that the date of change was 1550, after the Dissolution of the Chantries, (fn. 45) is clearly inadmissible in view of the definite documentary evidence for the earlier date. It is not, however, clear whether the parochial altar was placed actually in the transept or in the present Library, which, as already stated, we have identified as the chapel of the Four Virgins. The latter appears to have been its position about 1780, when Burrell (fn. 46) states that the Subdeanery church 'consists of a small nave, south isle and chancel. It is situated on the North Cross of the Cathedral, the pillars of this church are remarkably simple and elegant.'

Arundel. Sable six birondelles argent.

The last great benefactor to the cathedral building before the Reformation was Bishop Robert Sherburne (1508–1536). One of the chief works by which he is remembered is the large pictures on wood in the south arm of the transept, representing the founding of the cathedral at Selsey by St. Wilfred, and the renewal of the charter by Henry VIII to Sherburne himself. It is accompanied by portraits of the monarchs of England, with (now in the north arm) a series of 'portraits' of the Bishops of Selsey and Chichester. These were executed for him by a painter, Lambert Bernardi, who, with his two sons, was employed also to decorate the vaulting of the cathedral with foliage and arabesque ornament. (fn. 47) The paintings on the vaulting survived till 1817, when they were covered with whitewash and now only one fragment remains in the Lady Chapel, preserved till modern times more by accident than design. The pictures and portraits have probably been more or less restored, and those of the monarchs were extended by later hands down to that of George I. Some of the kings and queens were either never finished or were subsequently destroyed.

Sherburne. Quarterly: 1, Argent a pelican vert in a border indented and gobony argent and vert; 2 and 3, Argent a lion vert; 4, Argent an eagle vert.

Day. Quarterly argent and gules a cross quartered between four demi roses rayed all counter coloured with a daisy upon the cross.

Another work generally attributed to the bishop is the oak altar screen which was removed in 1870. Over it was placed in 1508 a minstrels' gallery which was removed in 1829. (fn. 48) No doubt he was also responsible for other works, such as coloured glass long since lost, but the only survival worthy of note is the ornate tomb in the south wall of the eastern arm which was made during his lifetime.

With the coming of the Reformation the cathedral, being of the old foundation, suffered perhaps less than the monastic establishments, but it had to undergo the destruction of the shrine of St. Richard and the suppression of its many chantries. The latter led to the conversion of the north and south chapels of the nave into outer aisles and then or later to the substitution of level parapets for their gables.

It may be owing to the opposition of Bishop Day (1543–1552) to the destruction of the stone altars that at least two of the altar slabs with their original crosses are preserved.

The story of the church for the next two or three centuries is one of misfortune and decay. The first great disaster was the fall of the north-west tower; the exact date of this is not on record; it may have been damaged during the siege of 1643, but probably fell before then. In the plan of 1658 the tower is said to be ruined, the two side walls having fallen. Dr. Christopher Wren, after inspection of the building, proposed that the other tower should also be demolished and the west end be entirely rebuilt at half the charge of rebuilding of the tower. (fn. 49) The tower remained in ruins for over two hundred and sixty years and was rebuilt from designs of J. L. Pearson and completed by his son in 1901.

The extent of the damage done to the fabric of the cathedral by the siege of the town by Sir William Waller in 1643 is not known. But that it suffered considerably during the six days' bombardment is certain. The Dean, Dr. Bruno Reeves, wrote a graphic account of the acts of the Parliamentary army inside the cathedral, but his description mentioned chiefly the wanton destruction of furniture, records, books, etc., and the robbery of the plate. The tracery of the great south and west windows seems to have suffered, and other parts fell into disrepair more perhaps from decay and neglect than wilful damage. After the Restoration of Charles II, however, an attempt was made to deal with the immediate necessities and money was collected towards this end by Bishop Henry King: a board in the south arm of the transept records the names of the donors and the amount collected—£1,780. Even the altar plate was sold to swell the funds. (fn. 50)

King. Sable a lion between three crosslets or.

A view of 1780 shows that the triforium arches were fitted with parapet walls, which are said to have been inserted by Bishop Sherburne (1508–36). They were removed in 1829. (fn. 51)

In 1731 the floor of the quire was laid with a blackand-white marble pavement, when many of the floor slabs with indents for brasses of bishops and others were moved into the nave and aisles. (fn. 52) Thus an unfortunate practice began, or was continued, of moving the monuments of the church, which has been the cause of irreparable confusion in their identification and generally in the history of the church. During the alterations of a century later Horsfield wrote, with a pleasure we cannot now appreciate, that nothing contributed more to the beauty of the cathedral than the removal in 1829 of some of the tombs near the high altar. (fn. 53) At some period of repairs or alterations, the effigies on some of the tombs have been moved and wrongly replaced, so that in more than one instance the effigy of one bishop has been placed on the tomb of another. An attempt to bring some order into the confusion was made by the late Rev. Mackenzie E. C. Walcott in a learned and painstaking paper on 'The Early Statutes of the Cathedral,' read before the Society of Antiquaries in 1874. (fn. 54) The results of his investigations have been largely used here in the identification of the chapels, altars, chantries, tombs and monuments, but certain obvious mistakes are corrected and new interpretations of evidence have been suggested. Whatever care may have been taken, however, to assign the monuments to those in whose memory they were set up, the want of reverence for them in the past and the lack of record evidence (fn. 55) make any certainty of such identifications, in many instances, almost impossible.

The Lady Chapel was granted to Charles, third Duke of Richmond, in 1750 as a family mausoleum and the floor was raised to form a vault. (fn. 56) The chapel itself was made into the cathedral library and so remained until it was restored in 1871.

There is nothing worthy of record after this until the Anglican revival in the 19th century and interest in the building began to be stimulated by Dean Chandler, who was appointed in 1830. Under him restorations were carried out by William Carpenter, the architect to the fabric, when the great south and west windows were repaired and much other work done. The dean, who died in 1859, left a legacy of £2,000 for the continuation of the repairs, and a further £8,000 was collected and the work was carried on, not always perhaps to the best advantage as judged by a later standard, but evincing a spirit and desire to make the building worthy of its importance in the diocese.

One of the greatest improvements was the removal of the subdeanery church of St. Peter from the transept in 1852 to a new church which was specially built for it on the north side of West Street, and the restoration of the space it had occupied for cathedral use.

The work was, however, interrupted by yet another great catastrophe, the fall of the spire in 1861. The spire had been struck by lightning in 1721 and the upper part had to be repaired. When the Arundel screen had been removed in 1860 it was discovered that the piers, which were innately weak and had suffered maltreatment, were in a very serious condition. Efforts were made to meet the emergency by centres and shores and the building in of new stone work in the weakest pier, the south-western. But new cracks and settlements occurred and the walls began to bulge. Professor Willis gives a graphic description of the strenuous attempts made by some seventy men working night and day to save the building, and of the final collapse 'as one telescope tube slides into another' on Thursday, February 21st, the whole fall 'being an affair of a few seconds' and doing as little damage as possible in the circumstances. (fn. 57) A sum of £53,000 and upwards was collected; the spire was rebuilt by Sir Gilbert Scott on the original lines, from drawings which had been made by Joseph Butler, architect to the fabric (1847–8). The church was reopened for divine service in 1867.

The restoration of the Lady Chapel to its original use followed in 1871, the library which it had housed being removed to the chapel of the Four Virgins, which had served so many years as the chancel of the church of St. Peter Subdeanery.

The later restorations have been the chapel of St. Clement by Dean Randall (1892–1902), the chapel of St. Mary Magdalene by Dean Pigou (1887–1892), and (since the Great War) the chapels of St. John, SS. Thomas and Edmund, and St. George.

The north-west tower was rebuilt in 1901 by Mr. J. L. Pearson, the architect, and now contains an altar to St. Michael set apart for children.

Other works have been the refitting of the room over the sacristy as the chapter house, the erection of a new reredos to the high altar and the restoration of the altar screen incorporating the remains of Sherburne's screen. This screen took the place of an unsuitable marble reredos which had been put up in 1870. A new altar has been set up on the site of St. Richard's shrine. The bell tower was thoroughly restored in 1902–8 and the Arundel screen, which had hitherto been lying about in fragments, was re-erected inside it simply to preserve it from destruction. The Stratford 'sacellum' was also replaced in its original position in the transept.

Much other renovation, rendered necessary in a building of this sort, has been carried out and is still being continued. (fn. 58)

It may be safely asserted that the building is now in a better condition than it has been for several centuries and stands as a fitting tribute to the memory of the many zealous workers who have contributed to preserve its ancient and historical associations without destroying its worthiness as a temple of a live religion.


  • 1. Annal. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 29; iv, 372; Will. Malmesbury, Gesta Pontif. (Rolls Ser.), 68.
  • 2. Ibid. 205.
  • 3. Figured in V.C.H. Suss. ii, 16.
  • 4. Walcott, 'Early Statutes of Chich.' (Arch. xlv, 55).
  • 5. Will. Malmesbury, op. cit. 206.
  • 6. Anglia Sacra, i, 297; Annal. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 43.
  • 7. Ibid. 44.
  • 8. Will. Malmesbury, loc. cit.; Episc. Rec. Liber Y.
  • 9. Walcott, Mem. of Chich. p. 14.
  • 10. R. Willis, Archit. Hist. of Chich. Cath. pp. 6–9.
  • 11. Some authorities think that the arched cross-walls in the triforia indicate an intention to construct a stone vault, as at Durham, for which the cross-walls were to serve as abutments.
  • 12. a Chron. Rog. de Hoveden, ii, 333; Annal. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 245; iii, 446; iv, 386.
  • 13. Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), i, 65.
  • 14. Annal. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 73, 252 iv, 390.
  • 15. Ibid. ii, 256.
  • 16. Stat. and Constit. of Cath. Church of Chich. (ed. 1904), p. 3.
  • 17. Walcott, in Arch. xlv, 171, states that St. Katherine's altar was founded before 1199, as appears by a charter of Bishop Simon. Possibly on the enlargement of the chapel the other three saints, Margaret, Agatha, and Winifred, were added.
  • 18. There seems to have been an altar of St. Edmund the King at triforium level (S.A.C. lxvi, 69), possibly in this upper story.
  • 19. Stat. and Constit. of Cath. Church of Chich. (ed. 1904), p. 3; S.A.C. xxviii, 26. In 1232 the king gave the bishop 100 oaks and in 1234 a further 50 oaks for the fabric of the church (Cal. Close R. 1231–4, pp. 81, 461, 506).
  • 20. Arch. xlv, 189, note c; 196, note f.
  • 21. Ibid. 168, 171.
  • 22. Annal. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, p. 32.
  • 23. R. Willis, Archit. Hist. of Chich. Cath. p. x.
  • 24. Arch. xlv, 15, note b; T. G. Willis, Rec. of Chich. 167.
  • 25. Arch. xlv, 173, 174; S.A.C. xxviii, 33; Walcott, Mem. of Chich. Cath. 37.
  • 26. Arch. xlv, 176.
  • 27. S.A.C. xxviii, 38, quoting the Cathalogus (Episc. Rec. Liber E).
  • 28. Ibid. 39. In original entry fenestr' is not extended.
  • 29. We are indebted to Mr. W. D. Peckham for this suggestion.
  • 30. Plan by Sir W. St. John Hope in Arch. lxviii, 52.
  • 31. Ibid. xlv, 168.
  • 32. Walcott, Mem. of Chich. Cath. 47. For a time in the 18th century the chapter met in the Lady Chapel (Horsfield, Hist. of Suss. ii, 23).
  • 33. Walcott suggests that the chapter house mentioned in 1249 was probably on the east side of the cloister where a large arch now opens (Arch. xlv, 198), but no documentary or architectural evidence for this theory has been found.
  • 34. Arch. xlv, 199.
  • 35. Cal. Pap. Lett. iv, 169.
  • 36. An extract of the report is printed in T. G. Willis, Rec. of Chich. pp. 174–6.
  • 37. a Walcott, op. cit. 16.
  • 38. Gordon Hills tried to show that the Chichester spire was of a much earlier date (see papers by Hills written in 1884 and printed in T. G. Willis. Rec. of Chich. 167).
  • 39. Ibid. 168. In 1455 the will of Canon Walter Eston refers to four men ringing bells 'in le maynell at le belfray.' P.C.C. Stokton, 4.
  • 40. S.A.C. xxix, 33–4.
  • 41. William of Wykeham died 1404, and this may be the reason for Hills's date 1403. Dean John Maydenhithe (1400–7) was a Wykehamist.
  • 42. A view of 1825 shows that it was a two-storied building: Add. MS. 36389, fol. 125.
  • 43. White Act Bk. fol 3.
  • 44. Arch. xlv, 170. There is a reference to St. Peter the Great 'in the north part of the cathedral church' in Jan. 1508–9: Reg. Sherburne, i, fol. 1.
  • 45. A. S. Duncan-Jones, Story of Chich. Cath. 41.
  • 46. a Add. MS. 5699, fol. 182.
  • 47. They were also employed in the palace.
  • 48. Walcott, Mem. of Chich. Cath. 42–3.
  • 49. Arch. xlv, 163.
  • 50. In 1675 Bishop Brideoake represented those 'necessitates ecclesiae in quam tempore motuum nuperorum vis plurima labiesque perduellium incubuerat, queritur dilapsas esse turres, laceratas fenestras, convulsa fundamenta, ruinam minitantia Claustra, multaque praeterea mala et incommoda quae gliscente bello ecclesia sustinuerat, qua propter hortatus est uti quantum res suae paterentur quilibet e Dignitariis et Canonicis aliquid in usum fabricae juxta antiquam ecclesiae consuetudinem contribueret' (Walcott, Statutes in Arch. xlv, 162–3).
  • 51. Corlette, Cath. Church of Chichester, 36.
  • 52. Walcott, Mem. of Chich. Cath. 42; Chich. Guide, 1810, p. 34.
  • 53. Horsfield, Hist. of Suss. ii, p. 23.
  • 54. Arch. xlv.
  • 55. The principal records dealing with the subject are the 'Cathalogus Episcoporum' in the Episcopal Records, Liber E and Liber Y, which was used by Walcott in S.A.C. xxviii, xxix; the Chantry Certificates at the Record Office; wills, and a MS. sketch plan of the cathedral made by Daniel King in 1658, now framed and hanging in the Chapter House and hereafter referred to as 'the Plan of 1658.'
  • 56. Horsfield, loc. cit.
  • 57. R. Willis, Archit. Hist. of Chich. Cath. p. xviii.
  • 58. A report on the work done on the cathedral during the forty years previous to 1905 was issued by Dean Hannah and is printed in T. G. Willis, Rec. of Chich. 187–92.