The Fourteenth Century Tower

The original Norman tower, in Fickling’s view (1909), cited by Reilly (1997) was higher and more highly decorated than the tower that replaced it in the mid-fourteenth century.  According to Pevsner (1968), cited by Reilly (1997), the replacement took place in about 1315.  Whereas the Norman tower would have supported a pyramidal roof, the shorter and lighter fourteenth century tower was topped by a wooden octagon the proportions of which can be judged to some degree of accuracy from the engraving in Fig. 59a.

In the late eighteenth century the octagon was removed and corner turrets based on those on the north transept were added.  A century later, in the 1880s signs of collapse led to the tower being taken down stone by numbered stone  and then rebuilt more strongly while accurately retaining the true appearance of the original.  The turrets were removed.

The arches supporting the tower at the crossing are pointed Gothic to the east and west, while the north and south  arches are round Norman.  This circumstance is due to the fact that when the Norman tower was taken down in the fourteenth century the arches were demolished down to the capitals on the east and west but only down to the top of the arches on the north and south sides.

It is important to note that the scale provided here in Britton (Fig. 188) is seriously inaccurate.  Like others in Britton, this scale has clearly been added by the publishers well after the drawing and engraving were made, and would seem to be arrived at largely by guess-work.  The same applies to Britton’s plan and section of the West Front, (his Plate V) where a drawn measurement of the width of the Front is given as 153 feet although when measured by the scale it appears as 168 feet.  On another of Britton’s plates (his Plate 1), the same dimension is given as 164 feet.  Recent measurements, including my own, give 156ft.

A corrected scale is provided on Figures 189 and 190, and using this scale the drawing appears to be dimensionally reliable.

 Nevertheless the presentation can be confusing, and needs to be treated with some circumspection. The exterior of the north transept and the interior of the south transept are well depicted and understood, as are the interior and exterior  elevations of the tower, but although the south eastern pier is shown supporting the main arch on the right-hand side, the left hand side shows a view through the sanctuary aisle and gallery about a hundred feet further to the east.  What is more, the roof-space on the left appears to relate to the roof on the west side of the tower and is unrelated to the section of the eastern sanctuary depicted below it.  The blank walls in the galleries on either side of the crossing belong to the beginning of the New Building 100feet away, while the windows below them are those another 60ft. away at the far end of the Cathedral.  The central toned area is of course an elevation of the sanctuary apse without the modern ciborium and altar.

It will be observed that the pavement level at this east end of the cathedral lies below the ground level outside the building, while at the west end the pavement stands about 18 inches above ground level. The pavement is level throughout the cathedral, except within the modern presbytery area, and all geometrical analyses presented here are related to the pavement level.

From the little information available of the history of the tower it is impossible to determine the exact height of the Norman tower in the twelfth century.  We know only that it was taller than the present tower.