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Adding the Spire

Medieval scaffold inside Salisbury Cathedral Spire

The dynamism of the 13th century Chapter was not maintained in the 14th century. Too many of the Cathedral’s clergy did not reside here, but were appointees of the Pope and held posts here along with positions elsewhere. Many Deans and senior canons after 1297 were cardinals in Rome and Avignon. Yet much was still done, not least because of two bishops, Simon of Ghent and Roger Martival, who were resident. These were great scholars and pastors, and presided over the building works of the 14th century.

The Close was surrounded to the north and east by a protective wall, for which the King gave permission for crenellations in 1327. Stone for this was quarried from the now redundant cathedral and houses at Old Sarum, and some re-used carvings that can still be seen today.

Even more spectacularly, the Cathedral was enlarged upwards between 1300 and 1320, by the incomparable tower and spire. This development was not unique to Salisbury – the cathedrals in London (old St Paul’s) and Lincoln both had taller spires, if only of timber and lead – but this one has proved the longest-lived, and since the late 16th century has been the tallest in England, standing at 404 ft/123m. It seems likely the spire was severely damaged within a few years of completion, and so needed repairs for which the still-existing internal scaffolding was built.