Monday, February 2, 2009

The Bell Tower

The Bell Tower, a striking feature of the close as it was before 1789, is shown above in the facsimile of an engraving originally published in 1761, and re-engraved in the superb County History in 1804(?). This shows the campanile standing at the north-west corner of the inclosure.

In style it was about the same period as the chapter house and cloisters. The plan appears to have been square, although one writer, frequently quoted, calls it multangular; the stone tower was in two massive stories with lancet windows in the lower, and windows with plate tracery above, with a spire apparently of wood crowning the whole. Leland speaks of it as "a notable and strong square tower for great belles, and a pyramis on it, in the cemiterie." It was evidently massive enough to have stood for centuries, and the single pillar of Purbeck marble, "lying in its natural bed," which was the central support that carried the bells, the belfry, and the spire, is specially mentioned by Price as perfectly sound, but he owns that the leaden spire, and a wooden upper story, were decayed, and puts forward a design of a sham classic dome which he hopes might be erected in its place. When the cathedral was visited in 1553 by the Royal Commission there remained a peal of ten bells, and the re-casting in 1680 of the seventh and eighth by the Purdues, local founders, is recorded among the muniments. The sixth is now the clock bell of the cathedral, but the fate of the others is absolutely unknown.

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