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Civil War and Restoration

Salisbury Cathedral from the South West corner of the churchyard

The political and religious upheavals which had begun in the previous century continued under the Stuart dynasty. In 1612 the City of Salisbury was emancipated from the Bishop’s control. Under Archbishop Laud in the 1630’s there were moves to enhance the dignity of worship, especially in the cathedrals, which were subject to a visitation (inspection) by the Archbishop. Salisbury’s was conducted in 1634, and recommended removal of the high-sided box pews in the nave, to be replaced with movable seats.

Then came the traumas of Civil War, the declaration of a Commonwealth, and the suppression of the Anglican Church. Salisbury was caught up in these national events: a military skirmish in 1645 ended with the Bell Tower being damaged, and from 1649 the Bishop and Dean and Chapter were abolished, the canons were expelled and their houses and property given to other uses. The Bishop’s Palace was mostly demolished. The Mayor of Salisbury was now in charge of the Close, and the cloisters were used for a time to keep Dutch prisoners of war – many escaped, to the annoyance of Parliament! Much damage was done to the cloisters, and the original glazing in the upper windows was destroyed: it has never been replaced. Much lead was stolen from the Cathedral and cloister roofs.

Following the Restoration of the monarchy and Anglican Church in 1660, refurbishment included a new communion table and rail, and a new font, and serious attention was given to preserving the Cathedral. A survey of its fabric was commissioned by Bishop Seth Ward in 1668 from Sir Christopher Wren, and various structural reinforcements and repairs then took place. Inside, the Quire was given a new and fashionable set of furnishings, and in the Close many of the houses were rebuilt or remodelled into the appearances which survive today. We know that even in the late 17th century Salisbury Cathedral was a noted feature in the national landscape: Celia Fiennes’, the pioneer account of her visit in 1685 referring to ‘good buildings’ in the Close, ‘both new built and the old good houses belonging to the doctors of the Church’.