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Beyond the Archive Door: Sir Christopher Wren

In my previous blog post I wrote a

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Beyond the Archive Door: Sir Christopher Wren

Posted By : Helen Sumping Saturday 20th February 2016

In my previous blog post I wrote about a 1673 memorandum between Salisbury Cathedral Dean and Chapter and a joiner, Alexander Fort, concerning discrepancies in the payment made for the repair of the Cathedral Quire (or ‘Choir’). On the reverse of the document is a statement from Sir Christopher Wren, who had been commissioned by Bishop Seth Ward (1667-1689) to write a report on the structure of the Cathedral in 1668 and make recommendations for work needed.  The report begins as follows (with original spelling; exceptions marked by square brackets):


The Cathedrall Church of Salisburie seeming
to threaten no inconsiderable decayes, it is desired
that [the] State of it be fully represented, [and] the
particular defects enumerated, [that] so proper remedies may
be applyed to restore it, where age, injuries of weather
or the neglect of it in times of trouble, have occasioned
weaknesse, [and] tendency, towards Ruine.


The report is held in the Cathedral Archive. The 1673 memorandum was only recently discovered in the Archive, and it was exciting to be able to compare it with the report.


As part of Wren’s recommendations the Quire underwent extensive renovations in 1671-1672, overseen by Wren, and Alexander Fort was employed (being one of Wren’s acquaintances) to carry out the work.


The memorandum records an inquiry made into ‘whether payment for [the] worke under named was not included in [the] Generall sum for repairing the Quier.’ The ‘worke’ included: putting up a brick wall; putting up wings to the Chapter, Chancellor and Treasurer’s seats; vaults under the wings; cantilevers ‘where the Organ Stands;’ and work on the Dean’s seat. This was submitted to Wren as ‘his Maties [Majesty’s] Surveyor Generall.’ Wren signed a statement in support of Fort as follows:


In pursuance of this Refference I conceive
1st: That the Brickwall is not in Mr Forts Covenante
which are only Carpenters Joyners and Carvers workes
2dly There is no mention of [the] ornaments of any other
seates but the Deanes which with all its ornament[es]
was intented to bee included in the bargaine and I take
the other to bee additionall workes
3dly The Vasa’s[1] are mentioned in the Articles to bee paid
for over and above the bargaine
4th The Deane and Chapter haveing paid for all the front
of [the] Organ it is resonable [that] Mr Fort should abate
for [the] Cantilever[es] or any other worke included in
the bargaine which is not in that place performed
All w[hich] is Subscribed [etc]
Chr[istopher] Wren


You can view the report and the memorandum in the accompanying gallery. As can be seen in the image of the memorandum, it is fragile with several parts missing. There is also significant staining from water damage.


If you would like to hear more about these items, please come along to the Library and Archive Spotlight Talk on 18 February, where our Archivist Emily Naish will be looking at three items from the Collection.


To view gallery click here.

[1] Literally ‘vessels’; probably used to mean ‘vaults’ in this context.