The First and Second World Wars
The First World War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945) dominated the first half of the 1900s. Salisbury Cathedral, along with the wider Church of England, supported the government but also wanted to promote peace, and provide comfort and hope to those in need. During the First World War Bishop Frederick Ridgeway, called for all the churches around Salisbury to ring a bell every day at 12.00 noon to remind people working in the fields, to pray for the safety of the soldiers and sailors, and to ask God for peace.
In the Second World War the Cathedral’s medieval Chapter House was used as a shelter for people from the nearby city of Southampton whose houses had been destroyed by bombs. Regular prayers were made for individual members of the armed forces at the request of their loved ones.
Luckily the Cathedral itself escaped any bomb damage. But just in case, at the beginning of the Second World War, many of the Cathedral’s treasures – whole windows, tombs, and medieval books and documents (including the 1215 Magna Carta) – were stored far away for safety.
Did you know
It has been suggested that the Cathedral wasn’t bombed because the German air force used the Spire to help them find their way across England – but we don’t know if this is true!
Repair and Restoration
Since the Wars a great deal of repair and restoration work has taken place. In 1950 the top nine metres (30 feet) of the Spire was rebuilt and a new cross was installed. In 1986 a comprehensive plan of repairs, beginning with the restoration of the whole Tower and Spire, called the Major Repair Programme (MRP) [link] was launched. The £6.5m Save Our Spire Appeal funded the Spire restoration and included a grand concert featuring Phil Collins, Charlton Heston, Kenneth Branagh and Placido Domingo, hosted by the Prince and Princess of Wales. Subsequently repairs have been made to each section of the building in turn.
There have also been changes to the inside of the Cathedral in the 1900s and 2000s. A new window dedicated to Prisoners of Conscience was installed in 1980, and a new font, complete with flowing water, was installed in 2008. A girls’ choir, the first in any cathedral, was established in 1991. Today the Cathedral continues to play an active role in the local community- most recently, in 2021, it was used as a Covid-19 vaccination centre.
Did you know
During the spring you may be lucky to hear, and perhaps see, peregrines flying around the Spire. Peregrines have nested here since the mid-1800s but, due to persecution, there were none from 1953 to 2014. So, we are very pleased they have returned!