Reordering and Gilbert Scott | Salisbury Cathedral

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Reordering and Gilbert Scott

The early part of the 19th century saw visits to Salisbury of two of England’s most distinctive and influential artists, John Constable and JMW Turner. Both found inspiration in the Cathedral, and their depictions of it have left lasting images in the popular imagination.


James Wyatt’s radical approach to this already ancient building was controversial, and was one catalyst of a movement to conserve historic monuments. By 1814 there was again an altar in the chancel, and by the mid-nineteenth century his work also seemed very dated, so when further major works were done these followed a very different course. First, in the 1850’s, came the restoration of the Chapter House, with an attempt to recreate its medieval state following centuries of neglect and vandalism.


Then in the 1860’s Sir George Gilbert Scott was employed, reversing much of Wyatt’s work. The Quire vault was repainted, the Trinity Chapel was again separated from a new High Altar, the choir stalls were more nearly given their medieval appearance, a new ironwork screen opened the Quire into the nave (which was again used for worship) and new stained glass gradually took the place of some of Wyatt’s clear windows. The culmination of this work was the magnificent new Willis organ of 1876. Scott also oversaw works to the exterior, including adding many new statues to the West Front. The final restoration came in the 1880’s with the restoration of the North Porch by G.E. Street.


The late 19th century proved to be the tail end of the quiet prosperity which had marked the Cathedral’s history. Following reforms, its generous historic endowments were lost, and no future Bishop or Chapter would be wealthy enough to fund the great building works in the Close and Cathedral which had gone before.