Lincoln Cathedral: Georgian renovations

There are many reasons to visit Lincoln and when you do, the one place you can’t avoid is the magnificent cathedral that dominates the Lincoln skyline. As we both live within the county we thought we really should write a bit about it. So let’s begin with its dimensions:lincoln-cathedral-dimensions

The foundations of the cathedral were laid in 1088, and as with any building, maintenance is required over the years and of course the cathedral has been no exception. Today we thought we would take a look at what renovations those Georgians undertook.

In 1762 the centre window of coloured glass at the East end was executed by Mr Picket of York.

1775 The embattlement on the top of the Broad Tower was designed by Mr. Essex of Cambridge and erected under his directions. The same eminent architect was employed in various extensive repairs to the edifice, particularly the roof; he also added the pointed arch with open balustrade which connects the two first pillars of the nave (a little in advance of the centre door in the West Front); and constructed the present Altar Screen.

1782 The floor of the church was newly paved, which occasioned the removal of many monuments that had escaped the ravages of time, fanaticism and mischief; and of the greater part of the inscribed grave stones. The new paving was certainly necessary and is a great improvement; but it is in consequence rendered very difficult to trace the graves of many of the learned and pious men who are there deposited.

1793 The Roman Pavement discovered several feet below the surface, in the centre of the Cloister Quadrangle. Steps descend to it, for the accommodation of visitors; and a brick shed has been built round to protect it from the weather.

1800 The Altar Piece was painted by Mr Peters, Prebendary of Langford Ecclesia.

The Stamford Mercury, 19 July 1805 reports details of the theft of Communion Plate

On Sunday morning the cathedral church of this city was discovered to have been robbed of the whole of the communion plate, consisting of several massy silver vessels, the value of which is supposed to exceed 500l. The last time the plate was seen was on Tuesday se’nnight, when the person who had it under his care sent a little boy with the keys to show it to a stranger. The robbers must have picked five locks, and there is no appearance of violence on any of them, four of them being re-shot. Everything proves this sacrilegious transaction to have resulted from a pre-concerted and well-digested plan. What occasions much conversation is, the circumstances of a convict in the city goal (lately a dragoon solider) having intimated to the gaoler who a few weeks ago conveyed him to the hulks at Woolwich, that ‘no long time would elapse before a great building Above-hill, and the warehouse of an eminent draper in Lincoln would be robbed by two persons, one of who was well know, and little suspected to be capable of such a transaction’. In consequence of this information which Mr. Tuke, the gaoler, divulged o his return to Lincoln, Mr. Smith, who was the draper alluded to, and fortunately paid to the assertion to the convict more attention that it was generally though worthy of, had new locks and bars put upon the doors of his valuable warehouse, and the robbery of the cathedral has proved with what well-employed caution. Proper persons have been sent from Lincoln to obtain what further intelligence respecting this mysterious affair it is possible to extort from the convict dragoon.

Lincoln Cathedral, from the west by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832) © Whitworth Art Gallery
Lincoln Cathedral, from the west by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832)
© Whitworth Art Gallery

 1807 The two Western spires which were made of timber and lead were taken down. The Norfolk Chronicle, 22 August 1807 reported:

It is determined to remove form that noble pile, Lincoln Cathedral, the two spires which surmounted St Hugh’s and St Mary’s Towers. Although necessity may require this the picturesque effects of that fine building will be greatly injured by it.

Lincoln Cathedral, from the Castle Moat, Peter De Wint 1784-1849 Bequeathed by John Henderson 1879 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03479
Lincoln Cathedral, from the Castle Moat, Peter De Wint 1784-1849, Tate (as you can see, the spires have been removed by the time of this painting).

1824 The ancient service of Communion Plate having been some years before sacrilegiously stolen from the Vestry, the present splendid Service was presented to the church.

Also in 1824 repairs were needed according to the Stamford Mercury  29 October.

The high winds of Tuesday blew off one of the weathercocks from the broad tower of Lincoln Cathedral, as well as the ponderous ball on which it stood. The ball fell with great force on the roof of the church making a large aperture in the lead, but was prevented from going through the stone-groined roof below by the strength of the rafters. The vane fell to the ground near to the cloisters. It is the north-east pinnacle, which has thus suffered; it is feared that the tops of the other three pinnacles are in nearly the same decayed state.

Bell’s Weekly Messenger 9 May, 1825:

For the magnificent Minster at Lincoln, a large and splendid organ is now building in London, which has been already performed upon by professors, and has been pronounced equal in power and superior in many points to any in the United Kingdom. The Rev. the Dean has also presented the Minster with a set of communion plate to the value of 1,000l. It is silver chased and gilt, and is similar to that which the King has ordered for his private chapel at Windsor.

1826 The new organ erected by the Dean and Chapter was opened, the church having previously undergone a thorough cleaning.

December 1827 Great Tom of Lincoln was found to be ‘cracked’ and unfit or duty to the great regret of the inhabitants of the ancient city. In 1834 it was broken up and a new one made to replace it. This was the bell that hung in St Mary’s Tower at the West End or Front of the Cathedral (St Mary’s is one tower, the other is St Hugh’s).

And, to finish we came across this curious article for which can offer no explanation.

Extract of a Letter from M. Johnson Esq.; to William Bogdani Esq.; concerning an extraordinary Interment.

In a letter to me from Mr. Symson, master of the works of the cathedral of Lincoln, dated 28 September last, I was informed that, in digging a grave at the west end of that church, they opened the foot of an ancient sepulcher – the corpse was sewed up in a strong tanned leather hide, the seam running up the middle of the breast. I should suppose it to be some great lay lord, before the custom prevailed of laying them within the church itself.

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Courtesy of Visit Lincoln

An augmented reality app is being designed which will allow users to experience the history of the cathedral spires giving them a taste of the height they once were before their removal in the early 1800s, in relation to the well-known building today.

Sources:

A Guide Through  Lincoln Cathedral

Archaeologia: or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity. Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London. The second edition. Volume 1. 1779

Feature image:

Baker, Joseph; A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery)

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5 thoughts on “Lincoln Cathedral: Georgian renovations

  1. Fascinating addition, Linda! I’m inclined myself to the Saxon Wapentake root, possibly with the other explanations added when the origin had been forgotten.
    This looks like another place to which to use our railcard.

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