Chichester Cathedral Archives Reach New Audiences in Sweden

By Peter Wilkinson, Kim Fleming, Wendy Walker and Abigail Hartley

In 2017 the Sussex Record Society published a fascinating volume of church court proceedings taken from the Diocesan Archives held at the Record Office. Depositions, which can be found in the Ep/I/11 series, are the accounts of cases held at the Bishop of Chichester’s Consistory Court. These courts covered a plethora of local issues and disputes including quarrels over wills, tithe disputes, matrimonial disagreements, and the ever amusing defamation cases.  However they can be difficult to read and interpret for the modern reader, which is where the Sussex Record Society and Peter Wilkinson got involved.

Kim and Peter

Kim Fleming and Peter Wilkinson in the Humanities building at Mittuniversitetet, Sundsvall

Chichester Archdeaconry Depositions 1603-1608 edited by Peter Wilkinson, a former deputy county archivist, gives us an intriguing insight into the life, loves and behaviour of everyday people in the early 17th century.  Peter’s earlier blog about his work describes how these cases were brought to trial in Chichester. They include vivid eye-witness accounts of incidents and events in rural Sussex and paint a unique picture of everyday life at that time.

Since then Peter and his colleague, Kim Fleming, have been busy working on more of these records.  The Sussex Record Society will be publishing Kim Fleming’s Witness Depositions of the Chichester Archdeaconry 1599-1603 on its website later this year and Peter’s article, Love Lost and Found, is already available online.

Chichester Archdeanery Depositions 1603-1608 Book Cover

The book is currently available to view at the Record Office

A couple of months ago Peter and Kim were invited to give a research seminar for the academic staff of the English department at the Mid Sweden University’s campus at Sundsvall.  The three hour session on 22 May presented material from the extensive holdings on the Bishop of Chichester’s Consistory Court from the 16th and 17th centuries.  The context and operation of the court, and analyses of the 1599-1603 volume of depositions, were discussed.

The speakers were invited by Professor Terry Walker, who at Kim’s suggestion had visited the Record Office last July to view the deposition manuscripts.

Professor Walker’s research is particularly concerned with the recording of actual English vernacular speech (and Latin) of the period.  Together with colleagues from Uppsala and Kansas universities she has published a major study of the Latin and English used in both secular and church courts in England in the period, but had not until last year come across the Chichester sources.

This new collaboration between Sweden and Chichester holds out the promise of more of the consistory court material being published and of further international interest in these important records.

About the Sussex Record Society:

Founded in 1901, Sussex Record Society publishes the transcribed records of the county’s history from documents found in local and national archives. The Society is due to launch its 100th volume later this year and also publishes a growing series of Online Records including databases, archives, images and texts covering many aspects of historic Sussex. You can find out more about the work and publications of the Sussex Record Society at

For more on the records held at the West Sussex Record Office, follow us on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages

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2018/2019 Accessions

By Abigail Hartley, Searchroom Archivist

One of the most crucial aspects that our volunteers tirelessly work towards is the accessioning of our smaller collections.  AM (Additional Manuscripts) contain some of our most visually interesting and varied documents.  Within the last 12 months, here is a quick overview of just some of the items we have added to our collections:

AM 1260 Certificate

AM 1260/6/1 – Certificate of the founding of the Bognor Branch of the Royal British Legion Women’s Section

  • AM 1213 – Additional Bousefield Family papers, 20th century.
  • AM 1263 – Records of the Sparkes Family, horticulturalists in West Sussex and Malta, 1960s-1980s.
  • AM 1254 – Deeds of North Pallant.
  • AM 1258 – Deeds for properties on Western Terrace, Worthing.
  • AM 1259 and AM 1261 – Deeds for properties in Hurstpierpoint.
  • AM 1260 – Royal British Legion Women’s Section Bognor Branch, late 20th century.
  • AM 1266 – Chichester Mission Support minutes, 1995-2016.
  • AM 1284 – Deeds for property in Worthing, Southwick and Horsham.
  • AM 1335 – Southern Home Counties Industrial Council minutes, 1929-1989.
  • AM 1358 – Mr Searle’s West Sussex research, with articles and photographs re Chichester, in part based on sources at WSRO, 1970’s.
  • AM 1362 – Tangmere Chronicles, a history of the village in photographs, pamphlets and notes, 20th century.

    AM 1374_2_1

    AM 1374/2/1 – Newsletters of the West Sussex Organists’ Accociation

  • AM 1371 – Drawings and sketches of architect Charles Dicker, 1855-1912.
  • AM 1374 – West Sussex Organist Association, 1959-2018.
  • AM 1380 – West Sussex Market Account books, 1943-1998.
  • AM 1382 – Blackmore family of Chichester, family scrapbooks featuring RAF and professional football refereeing career of members, 1904-1960.


Isn’t the variety of records fascinating?  From drawings to account books to local history research to deeds.  Also the colours!  Who said paper documents are all black and white?  We are currently in the process of updating our catalogues, so whilst some of these items aren’t searchable to the general public just yet, we hope to have it updated soon.  National Volunteer week was only a few weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean our appreciation for their hard work begins and ends with a hashtag.  A massive thank you as always to our volunteers; Nick, our archivist who juggles them all; and, of course, to our depositors, who choose us as a home for their records.

AM 1382_1_2 1

AM 1382/1/2/1 – Blackmore family of Chichester, scrapbook of refereeing career across Sussex

If you would like to see more of the variety of records held at West Sussex Record Office, check out our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages, where we often share some our more interesting items, as well as provide updates for upcoming events or (un)expected closures.


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A Day in the Life of…A Searchroom Archivist

By Alice Millard and Abigail Hartley

We are beginning a brand new blog project, which will continue over the next year or so on this page.  We hope to have each member of staff talk about their role in the Record Office to reveal what it is we do, and why we do what we do.  First up is Abigail, our Searchroom Archivist, who agreed to be the guinea pig for the series.  


Discussing the week to come before the public arrive

How does your day begin?

My day usually starts with me plopping down at my desk and checking emails (a universal morning task!).  I mostly sit in what is colloquially referred to as the ‘cage’, which, if you have visited our Record Office, you will understand where the nickname comes from.  It overlooks the volunteer work area of the Searchroom, though sometimes I can be found out front on the Supervisor desk.

First things first, I assign our emailed in enquiries to members of the Searchroom and Collections Management teams.  These enquiries can range from as quick as checking opening hours, to more in depth family history questions.  Some of these will eventually amount to a couple hours research into people, properties, or any other topic we can help with.  Each one of us in the Searchroom have our own areas of interest, and since I have started here three months ago, I find I particularly enjoy the military and family history enquiries (especially if they have difficult handwriting, every word you work through feels like a little victory).

Today (28th of May 2019) is the first day of the week we are open to the public (we are closed on Mondays, this allows the archive team time to host school visits, project meetings, cataloguing projects and so on).  The Searchroom team have a quick meeting every Tuesday morning before the public come in.  It’s a chance for us to update each other on anything we’ve been working on, potential researcher visits, and Record Office events.

Please tell us a little about your role…

Working Working 2

A photo of myself at the Supervisor Desk writing this very blog post. #SoMeta

Basically, I am the first point of contact when you email in.  I’m responsible for ensuring  our Record Office is as open to researchers and enquirers as can be, whilst helping us keep on top of matters such as copyright and restricted access items.  I can help point you in the right direction (for example, which District Council to look at when hunting for those ever elusive building alteration plans), do a little research, and help out in the Searchroom proper if it’s a little busy and we need all hands on deck. 

I also work jointly with our Research Assistant, Alice, when creating content for social media.  We hope to bring our most interesting and relevant records to the public’s attention, sometimes by riding on the coat-tails on hashtag trends that week, but we also pull from anything interesting that has cropped up in the Searchroom or drawing attention to upcoming events we have had a hand in planning or hosting.  Over the next few months I’ll also be getting more involved in outreach, such as talks and events. It is early days, but I’d like to write about the ARP records held at the Record Office.  They tell such fascinating stories. 

Essentially I do a little of everything, but I am based downstairs to provide immediate support to the public and the Searchroom team.

What particularly about your role do you enjoy?

How public facing the role is.  I really love the chance to work with researchers.  There’s a pretty great feeling of satisfaction when someone comes in looking for someone or something in particular, and you are able to give them the answer they need.  Oftentimes this can lead to more questions and those answers lead to more questions…  But it’s a genuine sort of joy for people who find the information they needed, whether it be local history, house history, family history, military history, research for a publication, internal enquiries and so on.  A sort of satisfaction of ‘Hey I did that.  I helped’.

What did you not expect yourself to be doing?

So far nothing too wild has cropped up in my day-to-day job.  Inevitably, research tends to pull you into chasms that you didn’t expect to go.  You can end up dealing with topics which are a bit heavier than you’d originally anticipated, especially regarding medical or children’s records, so you definitely have to take a step back at the end of the day.

What is the oddest situation you’ve been in?

There is no way I can answer this without either incriminating myself or some of the more eccentric enquiries we receive…  So let’s not talk about my probable Health and Safety violations overestimating my core strength and getting stuck balancing a box (or two) on my neck and chest in between two mobile shelving units.  That never happened.

Anything big on at the moment?

Tuesday Talk Setup

70+ chairs ready and waiting for tonight’s talk on the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day.  

In a couple of months I am going to get started on a larger cataloguing project, which I am really looking forward to.  One of my favourite moments as an archivist is when you arrive in the morning to a desk stacked high with records that are in some semblance of order, but not quite there yet.  I really enjoy getting stuck in and messing around with catalogue hierarchies and box lists and descriptions and constructing formulas on Excel.  Every archivist likes to have a project which at the end has everything neat and tidy and packaged away in boxes with nice descriptions and titles.  Ah, the dream.  Reality is inevitably more messy and the project will take several months, but the organised chaos of it all is just too attractive to pass on.

More immediately, we’ve got a Tuesday Talk tonight, as I am sure you will have seen us advertise across our social media on our Twitter and Facebook.  It’s a full house for Alan Readman’s presentation on the upcoming 75th Anniversary of D-Day.  A full house means lots of chairs, lots of teas and coffees, and lots of fascinating local history facts to digest!

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L’Alouette, Bognor, and the run up to D-Day

By Abigail Hartley, Searchroom Archivist

It’s a year of important anniversaries for World War Two, as later in September it will be 80 years since the start of the war, and, of course, the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings is also upon us.  It is only fitting, therefore, that the Record Office will be highlighting our fantastic Second World War records throughout the year.  To help commemorate, let’s look at one of our most impressive photographic collections – L’Alouette.  

Last month a blue plaque was placed in Bognor in remembrance of Frank L’Alouette on the site of his old shop, 32 West Street.  Born in Windsor on the 2 February 1901, he served an apprenticeship as a photographer’s assistant in Windsor. During the 1920s, he moved to Bognor Regis to work in the photographic department of Cleeves the Chemists in the High Street. In 1931 he bought the premises on West Street where he worked as a general photographer. When war broke out, Frank was unable to join due to a heart condition, but he obtained a Ministry of Information Permit and was able to capture some of the wartime events in and around Bognor Regis.


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Frank married Doris Gray at St John’s Church on 30 October 1927 and they had three children: Jeanette, Pamela and Susan. The eldest daughters, Jeanette (or Jenny) and Pamela, appear in many of Frank’s wartime pictures.  The business was later known as Lalouette Photographic Dealers.  After the war he continued his photography business until his retirement in 1956, and he would pass away in 1968.

The Record Office has held his collection since 2012.  His several hundred photographs show the impact and the experiences of Bognor Regis as a town and community during the Second World War.  Above is a small gallery of some of his work.  We can see the impact the Army, RAF, Navy, Home Guard, ARP wardens and the general public had on Bognor’s wartime experience, and how life carried on for much of its populace, with a few notable (barbed wire looking) differences.

If you’d like to see his photographs, especially with the D-Day anniversary fast approaching, have a go at searching online on our catalogue, filling in L’Alouette in the CatalogueNo field, or popping into the Record Office, so we can show you the originals.  Some of his work is also available on Sussex Pictures to buy as prints!

Give us a follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!  With the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War passing this year, we have a sneaky feeling his images will be cropping up often on your feeds!

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An update on a classic: The Pevsner guide to West Sussex buildings

From Tim Hudson, co-author.

Fresh from the press this week is the long awaited Sussex: West, the latest revised volume in the Buildings of England series.  This series was founded in the late 1940s by the emigré art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, to provide an inventory of everything of architectural importance in all the English counties: churches, cathedrals, institutional buildings like schools, great country houses, and also the more ordinary sort. 

Image courtesy of Yale University Press.

The original volume, Sussex, was published in 1965, its authorship shared between Pevsner and the crusading – one could even say maverick – architectural journalist Ian Nairn. Nairn was chiefly responsible for descriptions in the western end of the historic county. 

Revision of the series is funded through Yale University Press by the Paul Mellon Centre; and nowadays this means expansion of the original texts by up to twice their length.  So Sussex has necessarily been divided in two, the revised eastern section (corresponding to the modern county of East Sussex) being published in 2013.

Naturally the resources of the West Sussex Record Office were very important aids to the revision process, many types of documents being consulted, especially parish records, maps, building plans, and the archives of the great estates.  The reference libraries of the County Library Service also proved invaluable, notably the library at Worthing for both its books and pamphlets and its peerless collection of newspaper cuttings.

The new volume for West Sussex is edited by Elizabeth Williamson, previously a Deputy Editor of the whole Pevsner series, with as co-authors Tim Hudson, once Editor of the Victoria County History for Sussex (and well known around the Record Office), and Jeremy Musson, a freelance architectural historian and consultant who was formerly architectural editor of Country Life

Tim Hudson, co-author of the updated West Sussex Pevsner guide, and a regular visitor of the Record Office.

Elizabeth’s contribution to the revision was the central and eastern parts of the county, Jeremy’s broadly the north-western end, roughly as far south as Goodwood, and Tim’s the area around Chichester, together with Chichester itself (apart from the Cathedral and Close), and three other towns – Arundel, Petworth and Midhurst.

In addition Tim revised the accounts of four houses elsewhere designed or altered by one of his favourite architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens, besides the Charterhouse monastery at Cowfold, to which Elizabeth because of her gender wouldn’t have been allowed access. 

Meanwhile work on Chichester Cathedral and Close (the former with its wonderful late C20 artworks) was the responsibility of medievalist John Crook, who had previously dealt with Winchester in the first of two revised Pevsner volumes on Hampshire.  Authoritative archaeological input, including accounts of major sites like Bignor Roman Villa and Fishbourne Roman Palace, was provided by David Rudling.

Burton Park, Duncton. Credit to James O Davies.

The gazetteer section of the book is preceded by a detailed Introduction giving an overview of the architectural history of West Sussex.

Expansion of the gazetteer text itself has allowed for much more detail about buildings already described in 1965, incorporating the results of subsequent research.  Much more is also said nowadays about C19 and early C20 buildings in historical styles (to which Ian Nairn for instance wasn’t always sympathetic).  Other building types are also featured more, eg medieval vernacular housing, industrial structures, and buildings for transport like railway stations and airports.

Additions to the building stock since 1965 naturally claim an important place, for instance the Novium Museum in Chichester, the Rolls-Royce HQ at Westhampnett (by the architect of the Eden project in Cornwall) and the quirky East Beach café in Littlehampton.

East Beach Cafe, Littlehampton. Credit to James O Davies.

Ian Nairn’s comments in the original book could famously be spicy.  Inevitably it hasn’t been possible to retain all of them, especially the more un-PC ones.  But the assessments of the authors of the revised volume remain individual to themselves – and sometimes even controversial.

The format of Sussex: West is larger than that of earlier volumes, and as with all modern Pevsner revisions it is illustrated in colour, with 121 ravishing photographs mostly taken to order by James O Davies.  There are also more plans of buildings than before, together with maps of the major towns; the latter especially will aid readers in their ‘perambulations’ (a favourite Pevsner word) around them.

Sompting Tower. Credit to James O Davies.

Copies of this new edition will soon be available to view in the Record Office, and in West Sussex Libraries.

Find out more about the Pevsner architectural guides to Britain here:

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D-Day: The West Sussex Story

By Alan Readman

“Okay, we’ll go!” With these words, spoken to his Chiefs of Staff at Southwick House, near Portsmouth, at 4.15 on the morning of 5 June 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, set in motion the greatest armada the world had ever seen. The day following came to be known as D-Day, the 75th anniversary of which we commemorate this year.

D-Day West Sussex cover

The new edition of D-Day West Sussex available at the Record Office and Local Libraries

To mark the occasion, a book published twenty-five years ago by West Sussex County Council titled D-Day West Sussex, written by Ian Greig, Kim Leslie and Alan Readman, has been reprinted. It was researched from local and national archives and from the recollections of people who had lived through those days. Through this book, the contribution of West Sussex to the D-Day story was told for the first time.

D-Day has been described as the most crucial single event of the Second World War. Success for the Allies would hasten the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation; failure would give Hitler the freedom to launch his V1 and V2 attacks on England and strike back at Russia on the Eastern Front.

In West Sussex the build-up of the assault forces had become apparent early in 1944. In February, the 30th US Infantry Division arrived in the Chichester district. Its 120th Infantry Regiment was billeted in Bognor and Felpham, with its HQ in the Victoria Hotel at the Aldwick Road end of Victoria Drive.

The impact of the American presence on British society is well known.  “Over fed, over paid, over sexed and over here” was the quip of the day but in reality local people offered homely hospitality that was greatly appreciated by troops from overseas. In Chichester, Bishop Bell held receptions for American officers in the Bishop’s Palace and, elsewhere in the city, canteen facilities were opened for visiting troops.  At Middleton-on-Sea, they gathered at “Mom and Pops Canteen”, run by Mr & Mrs Vigur.

Visits and inspections by the D-Day Commanders took place. The Bracklesham Bay Hotel hosted Eisenhower, Montgomery and Churchill while they observed landing rehearsals at Bracklesham and Climping. King George VI visited Petworth Park. Its tented and hutted camp was home to over 4000 soldiers, including the 27th Armoured Brigade with its amphibious Sherman tanks, which a few weeks later would prove their value on Sword Beach.

Eisenhower also stayed at the Ship Hotel in North Street, Chichester, while inspecting the many airfields and advanced landing grounds in the area.  He was guest of honour at a formal dinner in the Officers Mess at RAF Tangmere, attended also by the legendary air ace, Johnnie Johnson, then Commander of a Wing of Canadian Spitfires at Funtington.

The Operations Room of RAF Tangmere was in Chichester at Bishop Otter College. A special Observation Gallery was erected from which senior officers could look down on plotting tables, manned round the clock by specially trained WAAFs. On D-Day this room was the nerve centre for the operation of 56 Squadrons from 18 airfields taking part in the invasion. That day, the three Czech Spitfire Squadrons based at the Advanced Landing Ground at Apuldram gave cover to landing forces on the beaches and, flying from dawn to dusk, carried out more sorties than any other RAF station.

The county’s aviation role was varied – including receipt of the wounded from the landing beaches, who were flown back to airfields at Ford and Bognor for treatment at hospitals in Chichester.


Airborne assault glider being towed by an aircraft – Heading to France to take part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy (L’Alouette/A/1/22/1)

Of the county’s many associations with D-Day, perhaps the most extraordinary were the Mulberry Harbours, the pre-fabricated ports towed across the Channel on D-Day+1 to supply the invasion army. Their design owed much to the inventiveness of Lieutenant-Commander Robert Lochner, a young Admiralty scientist from Linchmere. Some of the principles came to him in his bath and were put into practice in his garden pond at Rats Castle.

The components of these artificial harbours were assembled off the coast at Pagham and Selsey prior to the towing operation. It was all top secret but that didn’t stop locals speculating as to what was going on. The consensus in Bognor was that they were prefab buildings for a new off-shore housing estate. In Bosham, they said they were the start of a cross-Channel concrete bridge. Only in October would they discover the truth, that the harbour when erected at Arromanches played a vital part in the invasion, earning Churchill’s accolade “this miraculous port”. Remnants of a wrecked section, that came adrift in a practice assembly, can still be seen at low tide, embedded in the sand at West Beach on the Aldwick foreshore, our own souvenir of the D-Day activity in West Sussex.

Bognor, Littlehampton and Worthing were directly under the flight path of the 6th Airborne Division as it headed for Normandy on the night of 5-6 June 1944. There was little sleep for residents of those towns. Next morning, the Army camps were empty and the streets clear of invasion vehicles. The people of West Sussex, who had observed the build-up at close quarters, now knew that the long-awaited liberation of Europe was underway.

Copies of the ‘D-Day West Sussex’ book, reprinted in 2019 (with minor amendments) for the 75th anniversary, is available at £7.95 from all West Sussex libraries and the Record Office, 3 Orchard Street, Chichester (e-mail with any queries).

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Bees, Falcons, Gothic Alterations and Collapsing Cathedrals – the Story of Chichester’s Fallen Spire

By Abigail Hartley, Searchroom Archivist

PH 5283 reduced

PH 5283 – A postcard showing the cathedral spire during the mid 19th Century

I, like many others, watched heartbroken as the roof and spire burned during the recent fire at Notre Dame de Paris.  Thankfully, many of the artworks and relics were rescued, no visitors were harmed, and the facades and majestic bell towers are structurally stable.  I took this as a sign of how good medieval engineering can be (though we will get to when they were clearly just making it up as they went along).  I was also told that all of the 180,000 bees that apparently live in the roof of the Cathedral also survived, albeit quite ‘drunk’ from the smoke.  This fact led to a sigh of relief for the poor things followed by a sudden befuddled realisation that apparently there are genuine live actual bees living in the roof of Notre Dame.

All glib remarks aside, the image that will stick with me is seeing on twitter, as it happened, the collapse of the spire.  It was not the oldest part of the Cathedral, indeed it was part of the renovations during the 19th century, but it was deliberately designed to invoke the late medieval Gothic stylings of the 800 year old building.  It showed how good the Victorians were at incorporating then modern materials, tools and designs into much older foundations, and how even their efforts could not stop the extensive damage from occurring.

Regardless, this inevitably led to thinking of much closer to home.  Many comparisons have been drawn to York Minster, which has suffered horrendous fires in 1829, 1840 and most famously 1984 after a lightning strike.  Lesser known by the general public but closer still is Chichester Cathedral, whose own spire collapsed in 1861.  It is estimated to have cost somewhere between fifty and sixty thousand pounds to rebuild, and it remains the spire that you can see (under a substantial amount of scaffolding around its base) to this day.

PH 7366 reduced

PH 7366 showing the void made by the spire collapsing straight down into the interior

Chichester Cathedral has the reputation of being (and I say this with the greatest affection possible) pretty standard as far as Cathedrals go.  The greatest things of note remain that it is the only Cathedral visible from the sea and it has a separate bell tower.  Otherwise the construction has been altered very little over the years in comparison to its cousins in Lincoln or Gloucester.  Part of the reason for this, and part of the reason for the dramatic tumbling of the spire in 1861, is the problem of subsidence.  In other words, it is slowly sinking into the ground.  This is due to the foundations upon which it was built being unable to support its weight.  A visible consequence of this is the bell tower.  Have you ever wondered why it is separate to the main structure?  It is simply too heavy to be included safely in the Cathedral proper.

As a consequence, various parts of the building have caved in at one point or another, with the South West tower collapsing in 1210, the North West in 1635, and of course, the ‘original’ spire in 1861, which had been partially restored in the 1600s by Christopher Wren.  Of course, to say that it was the ‘original’ spire is a bit too simple.  It was built in the 14th Century, around 200 years after the Cathedral had first been consecrated in 1108.  Some spires that we see today on our Cathedrals are later editions built on foundations that were most definitely not designed with the knowledge that someday someone would get the bright idea to put severe structural pressures on its walls.  Beautiful?  Yes.  Structurally sound?  Mmmmmm… This author is no architect but even she suspects that Gothic additions to Norman structures were often poorly thought out and executed.

Chichester Cathedral is not atypical of English Cathedrals in its architectural mishaps. Hereford’s western front has collapsed in the past, and many spires across the country have fallen at one point or another, usually during the construction stage in the eleven through fourteen hundreds.  Winchester, Ely, Gloucester, Lincoln… and indeed Chichester have all had parts fall off at one point or another, sometimes multiple times over their existence.

And so I got to thinking about what we held at the record office.  My colleagues had made a post here and there about the collapse of the spire, and a quick search brings

PH 7367 reduced

PH 7367 and the mass pile of rubble produced during the collapse

up a series of photographs showing the aftermath of the disaster shows how extensive the damage was. What follows is all information obtained from sources held at the West Sussex Record Office.

Half past one in the afternoon on the 21 of February 1861 was well documented by eye witnesses and local newspapers, with the Illustrated London News in particular making a series of beautiful (if slightly Romanticised) depictions of the ruined church and the restoration works.  George Braithwaite, the sub-Dean, described the event, ending with “…Silence was restored; and the debris rested like some soldier in the grave”.  It deeply affected the city, with the Dean himself described as “leaning over his table sobbing, his face buried in his hands”.

Poems were written and committees were held, affirming that restoration work would begin almost immediately.  Subscriptions for funding began, with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert giving £350, and the Duke of Richmond giving £1000.  £40,000 was the estimated cost, and initially around £20,000 had been received.  Much more would be needed to build a new tower.

The five foot cracks that were large enough to fit a man’s arm into were seen as such a drastic level of damage that many felt that it could not have been the result as something as simple as the long decay of time.  There had to be a more malicious cause surely?  Arguments continued back and forth, some blaming the weak medieval architecture, others blaming the storm the night before, others pointing to bungled restoration work which had begun when the large cracks were discovered.  It seems time did the damage, improper precautions and ill-informed consultants led to further structural weakness, finalising with one stormy night being enough to make the damage irreversible and the collapse inevitable.

The spire was rebuilt taller than before, and lead to papers and discussions on how best to preserve ancient buildings, building on what had been started in France, with the publishing of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Notre Dame de Paris had been left in a state of disrepair before Hugo’s famous novel emphasised that these buildings will outlast and oversee all of the conflicts created by humans if revered and cared for in the right way.  The book acted as a sort of wake-up call across France.  Indeed it is difficult today to imagine a France were historical preservation does not form a significant aspect of their cultural identity.  This impact of Hugo was felt across the channel, with many Cathedrals and Abbeys having work done to their edifices and interiors.  The Cathedrals were designed to outlast the people that would pray within them, and later dodgy additions to the main structures meant that greater care was needed when working on these grand buildings.  G.G. Scott, the man who would design the new spire, gave a paper on the conservation of ancient buildings in 1862, and would go on to sit at a committee for the conservation of monuments and remains.  One decade later SPAB (the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) would be founded by William Morris, which continues to this day.

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PH 116 Showing the early days of restoration work

The planning and rebuilding of the Cathedral spire took five years, with the first stone being laid by the Duke of Richmond in May 1865.  By the end of that year the spire was 60 feet high, and on an almost fittingly stormy June 28th 1866, the weather-vane was placed on the spire, crowning it at eight feet higher than it had been previously.  Internally, restoration work took a little longer, with the 14 November 1867 marking the first service held with all the work complete.

Moving forward to the here and now, the Cathedral is currently going through further restoration work (the roof.  Always the church roof…) that will take several years.  It will undoubtedly look beautiful and relatively solid once complete, and, as far as I know, will continue to not have bees (intentionally) living in the new lead roof.  We do, however, have peregrine falcons, which you can watch on a livestream here, more impressive than bees for sure?

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