Victorian Restorations

When Edmund Goodenough became Dean in 1831, he was horrified by the uniform drabness of the cathedral building, part whitewashed, part covered with yellow ochre both inside and outside, so that everywhere the detail of the carving was difficult to see. Having moved most of the great monuments and plaques, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries, into the cloisters, the walls of the building looked even duller. A two year programme of intensive cleaning was instituted between 1842 and 1844, known as the great scrape. The cleaning was so vigorous that any surviving medieval polychrome disappeared apart from a few small traces. From the quire eastwards, the building was in a sorry state and Anthony Salvin, a well known architect, was engaged to oversee the work of repair and restoration.

The Lady Chapel, which had suffered much damage in the 17th century as the Puritans disliked the Maryan tradition, was tackled with great attention to detail. The east window was restored by Thomas Willement, using as much of the remaining medieval glass as possible. On completion, he offered a medieval style design for the painting of the star vault in 1845. A new tiled pavement, fabricated by the Minton factory, with some more elaborate blue tiles designed by Pugin, was laid to cover a crumbling floor.

Pugin tiles

An extra step was added towards the altar thereby unfortunately concealing the base of the reredos. The three sedilia (seats) of the mass were added on the south side.

In the quire Salvin worked with great delicacy. Slight alterations were made to the bishop’s seat using insertions of Bath stone with which he was more familiar. The whiter colour is easily spotted.

The original wooden seating galleries were found to be unstable and were pulled down. All seating until then had been in front of the pillars. Salvin built the present canons’ stalls to fit between the pillars thereby creating a much needed extra row of seating. Because the new Willis organ could not rest, by virtue of its size, on the medieval pulpitum (stone screen), Salvin pushed out the central section, inserting extra stone panels. The opening recital on the new organ was given in 1857. Up above, the complicated liern vault was cleaned, the plaster fields lime washed and the bosses painted to reveal the design more fully. To celebrate the conclusion of the work, Salvin painted his initials A.S. on the stone of a link rib above the bishop’s seat.