Chichester cathedral: The cathedral close

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

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'Chichester cathedral: The cathedral close', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3, (London, 1935), pp. 146-147. British History Online [accessed 15 June 2024].

. "Chichester cathedral: The cathedral close", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3, (London, 1935) 146-147. British History Online, accessed June 15, 2024,

. "Chichester cathedral: The cathedral close", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3, (London, 1935). 146-147. British History Online. Web. 15 June 2024,


The organisation of the Cathedral Church at Chichester, of secular foundation, grew up gradually and somewhat irregularly. Before the time of Bishop Ralph de Luffa (1091–1123), the bishops and their priests probably lived in the buildings vacated by the inmates of St. Peter's minster. Luffa reorganised the cathedral establishment and appointed the office of dean, and either he or Bishop Hilary (1147–69) introduced the offices of precentor, treasurer and chancellor. It was probably with the view of laying out the close for the accommodation of the newly organised staff that Bishop Hilary in 1147 obtained a confirmation of the grant of the southwestern quarter of the city. Within this quarter he apparently built an episcopal palace and houses for the dean and the other dignitaries of the church, and the canons. The houses then erected were consumed by the fire of 1187 and had to be rebuilt by Bishop Seffrid II (d. 1204), parts of which rebuilding yet remain in the Bishop's Chapel, the Chapel of St. Faith and possibly in the house of the royal chaplains. The houses were built fronting the south side of Canon Lane and the (later) south alley of the cloister with its extensions east and west. It is interesting to note that these lines of communication run parallel to West Street, the Roman Road, without having any relation to the axis of the then newly built Cathedral Church. This points to the adoption of pre-existing roads used by the Saxon clergy, survivals perhaps of the Roman lay-out, and gives the distorted shape to the cloister. At the west end of the way running through the south alley of the cloister was the bishop's palace, and on the north side of the palace was the house (now demolished) of the chancellor, probably the dignitary who was most intimately connected with the bishop. The treasurer's house was to the east of the palace on the south side of the alley. The houses of the dean, the precentor and the residentiary canons were on the south side of Canon Lane with gardens extending to the city wall and a way to the cathedral by St. Richard's Wyne, Lane or Walk. From the beginning of the 12th century, new prebends were founded and endowed, and fresh accommodation had to be provided for the new prebendaries. The practice of granting prebends to kings' clerks and other nonresident canons led to the provision of vicars to take the place of the absent canons in the services of the church. This practice of non-residence was in force as early as 1251 (fn. 1) and spread so that the governance, board and lodging of the vicars had to be regulated at the end of the 14th century. Their lodging and hall were provided in the Vicars' Close northward from the east end of Canon Lane, at the end of the 14th century.

Bishop Robert Sherburne early in the 16th century made further changes in the cathedral establishment. He founded four residentiary canonries with the prebends of Bursalis, Windham, Exceit and Bargham in 1523. The Bursalis prebendary was to be a graduate from New College, Oxford, and the others were to be Wykehamists from either New College or Winchester School; the dean and chapter were to appoint to Bargham and the Bishop to the other three prebends. (fn. 2) Accommodation was found for these new canons at a house in the cloister now known as the house of Wiccamical prebendaries, which was adapted for the purpose. The resident canons and also the vicars alike had a communal life before the Reformation. Their numbers varied from time to time. There were about 12 canons residentiary in the 14th century, but in 1574 the number was fixed at four, besides the dean. (fn. 3)

The Cloister is wholly of the 15th century and is of irregular plan obviously governed by the preexisting buildings which stood south of the cathedral and the graveyard known as 'Paradise.' The three cloister alleys were mainly used to give access to the church from different parts of the Close. They may have been covered by a wooden pent as a protection for the canons, but there is no evidence of a covered masonry cloister before the present cloister was built. (fn. 4)

The east walk of the cloister, of eight bays, runs from the south doorway in the second bay of the eastern arm to the west end of St. Faith's Chapel, part of which it absorbed. The doorway from the church was evidently made with the cloister, and its position allows the walk to be nearly at right angles with the church. The position of the west walk, which is only of four bays, was governed by that of the south porch, this being the only available place for the second entrance from the cloister. The other end of the walk was probably fixed by the now destroyed Treasury, which caused the walk to be slightly canted to the west from the north end. The distance between the treasury and St. Faith's Chapel is considerable, being some 170 ft., flanking the greater part of the eastern arm, the south transept and the sacristy west of it. The treasury was some 32 ft. nearer to the church than St. Faith's, so that the south walk is very much longer than the others, and is canted inwards from east to west; it consists of eleven bays.

The wall towards the garth is built of flints, the upper part of ashlar inside. The windows in the bays are all alike in design, being of four cinquefoiled lights and vertical tracery in two-centred heads; the jambs are moulded and have engaged shafts with octagonal moulded capitals and round bases. The recesses are fitted with stone benches. The five north windows of the east walk are glazed, also three in the west walk and the one on the west side of it. In the south walk between the fourth and fifth windows from the east is a moulded two-centred gateway into the garth (Paradise). It is fitted with an early-18th-century wroughtiron gate. There are buttresses on the inner sides of the east and south walks, generally between each alternate bay. The part of the north wall of St. Faith's which crosses the east walk, and its west wall across the south walk, are carried on moulded fourcentred arches and the west end of it in the garth is buttressed. The end of the chapel is closed by a wooden partition, now mostly modern, but containing an old pointed doorway with a modern moulded label. The outer or east wall of the east walk is mostly of flint outside with internal ashlar above a 5 ft. level, and is solid except for an archway at the south end (north of St. Faith's), which has moulded jambs and a two-centred head with a moulded label on the east face. The wall is divided by buttresses into five bays. The outer west wall is also of flint with knapped faces: it has a window at the north end like those in the inner wall, but of modern stonework. At the south end of it is a 14th-century archway with shafted jambs having moulded capitals. This has been reset inserted in a larger archway which has a twocentred head. The south wall contains sundry doorways and windows which belong to the buildings against the cloister and are more properly described with them.

The roofs are all of open timbering of trussed rafter type, with arched braces below the collarbeams to form barrel vaults: the wall plates are moulded, and there are also moulded central purlins in the east walk (only) below the collars and curved braces. The arches formed by the braces in the east walk are nearly semicircular; in the south and west walks they are four-centred.

Among the mural monuments in the cloister are the following: in the east alley to Hannah Gooch, wife of the Lord Bishop of Norwich and daughter of Sir John Miller, 1746, and their son, John; to William Laver, 1829; to John Sherer, Mayor of Chichester, 1730–1, and his wife Mary (Henshaw), 1706, also to Thomas, his brother, 1706–7, and Elizabeth, 1681, Mary, 1687, Richard, 1692, John, 1707, William, 1726, and Margaret, 1729, his children; to Major Anthony Greene, 1814; to Mary Dilke, 1852; William Wentworth Grant Dilke, her son, 1854, and William Dilke, 1885; to Emma Georgiana Dilke, 1903; to Martha (Carter) wife of Henry Smart, 1729; also Robert, her son, 1740, and Henry Smart, her husband, alderman, 1760; and to George Edward Heming, 1827. In the south alley to Richard Fuller, 1842, Lydia, his wife, 1804, and four infants, and Mary, mother of R. Fuller, 1806; to James Whitwood, 1701, John Bull, 1710, Mrs. Mary Watts, daughter of J. Whitwood and relict of Mr. Bull, 1733, and Mr. John Watts, 1738; to Mary Johnson, 1784, Martha Cooper, 1791, William Johnson, 1801, and Mary, widow, 1869; to Edward Johnson, 1807, Jane, widow, 1810, Anna Johnson, granddaughter, 1821, Edward William Johnson, 1874, and Mary Jane Johnson, 1875; to Edward Johnson, 1875, John James Johnson, 1890, and Thomas Weller-Poley, 1924; to Canon Thomas Woodward, 1696, and Hannah Smyth of Chilgrove, his wife, 1722; to Charles Wentworth Dilke, 1826, and Sarah, his wife, 1825; to William Chillingworth, A.M., 1643–4, Chancellor of Salisbury Cathedral; to Oliver Whitby, son of Oliver Whitby, Archdeacon and Canon of Chichester, 1702; to Ruth Geere, 1744, Thomas Geere, 1781, Ruth Nixon, daughter, 1789, Thomas Geere, son, 1805, John Blagden, 1831, and Frances, wife of John Blagden and daughter of Ruth Nixon, 1835; William Ridge, 1829, Sarah, his wife, 1816, and Ann, daughter, 1830; to Alderman John Harris, 1730; to Henry Mullins, 1780, Sarah, his wife, 1808, Elizabeth, daughter, 1776, Catherine Sandham, granddaughter, 1778, and Sarah, daughter of Henry and Sarah, 1829; to Captain Thomas Allen, 1781; to Richard Brazier Pope, 1823, and Mary, his wife, 1828; to William Thomas Williams, 1828, and Emma Morgan Williams, his sister, 1846. In the west alley to Dorothy, wife of William Lane, 1807; to William Ellis Nembhard, 1829; to Canon Thomas Hurdis, D.D., 1784, and Naomi, his wife, 1781; to Ann Pilkington, 1846, and Theophania Pilkington, 1855; to Canon Charles Pilkington, 1828, and Harriet Elizabeth, his widow, 1850; to George Pilkington, 1842; to George Farhill Dixon, 1838, and George Manley and Mary Catherine, his infant children; to Canon Thomas Baker, 1831; to John Shore, 1773, and Jane, his widow, 1803; to Canon John Frankland, A.M., 1778; to Canon Richard Green, LL.B., 1775, and Anna, his widow, 1790; to Richard Smith, 1767; to Michael Smalpage, 1595 (marble monument with bust of man in a niche), erected by Percival, his son; to John Shore, M.D., 1721; to Elizabeth (Briggs), widow of John Shore, M.D., 1759; and to Thomas Briggs, LL.D., 1713, Chancellor of the Diocese.

In the east walk are floor slabs to Mary, widow of Henry Cheynall, D.D., and daughter of Sir Thomas Miller, 1729; and to Hannah Gooch, wife of the Bishop of Norwich and daughter of Sir John Miller, 1746, and John her infant son, 1728.


  • 1. Stat. and Constit. Hist. of Chich. Cath. (ed. 1904), p. 14.
  • 2. Arch. xlv, 148–9.
  • 3. Stat. and Constit. Hist. of Chich. Cath. (ed. 1904), 36.
  • 4. Walcott (Arch. xlv, 233) gives a reference to the use of the word Claustrum in Rede's Reg. (Suss. Rec. Soc. viii), p. 115, under date 1402, but it is used with regard to the houses within the Canon's Close, not the cloister, and Canon Deedes so translates it.