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Eighteenth Century repair and Wyatt

View from the Tower over the North West Close

During the 18th century remarkable things happened to the fabric of the cathedral.

From 1737 to 1753 Francis Price, the Clerk of Works, restored the roofs, making significant changes to the roof structures at the east end, and published the first book about the cathedral, a detailed record of the fabric of the building following Wren’s survey.

A very contrasting approach to that of Price was applied at the end of the century. In 1758 the lecture room and the upper part of the bell tower were demolished, and from 1777-79 the cathedral was closed for ‘cleaning and beautifying’. In 1789 Bishop Shute Barrington employed James Wyatt to remodel the cathedral, and, following a survey the cathedral was closed from 1789-92, while Wyatt demolished what remained of the bell tower, drained and levelled the churchyard, and removed two porches and the two medieval chantry chapels at the east end of the cathedral. Since his work there has been little change to the external appearance of the building, set now among lawns.

However, Wyatt also completely changed the interior, changes which have lasted less well. With a vision of a clearer and simpler interior, in which the nave was not used for worship, he started the removal of remaining medieval glass, whitewashed or removed the medieval wall paintings and vaulting decoration, moved monuments, built a new screen, new pews (with galleries above), and cleared and levelled the whole east end so that the only altar was beneath the Trinity Chapel window.