The fabric of the cathedrals is often in danger of becoming part and parcel of vanishing England. Every one has watched with anxiety the gallant efforts that have been made to save Winchester. The insecure foundations, based on timbers that had rotted, threatened to bring down that wondrous pile of masonry. And now Canterbury is in danger.
The Dean and Chapter of Canterbury having recently completed the reparation of the central tower of the cathedral, now find themselves confronted with responsibilities which require still heavier expenditure. It has recently been found that the upper parts of the two western towers are in a dangerous condition. All the pinnacles of these towers have had to be partially removed in order to avoid the risk of dangerous injury from falling stones, and a great part of the external work of the two towers is in a state of grievous decay.
The Chapter were warned by the architect that they would incur an anxious responsibility if they did not at once adopt measures to obviate this danger.
Further, the architect states that there are some fissures and shakes in the supporting piers of the central tower within the cathedral, and that some of the stonework shows signs of crushing. He further reports that there is urgent need of repair to the nave windows, the south transept roof, the Warriors’ Chapel, and several other parts of the building. The nave pinnacles are reported by him to be in the last stage of decay, large portions falling frequently, or having to be removed.
In these modern days we run “tubes” and under-ground railways in close proximity to the foundations of historic buildings, and thereby endanger their safety. The grand cathedral of St. Paul, London, was threatened by a “tube,” and only saved by vigorous protest from having its foundations jarred and shaken by rumbling trains in the bowels of the earth. Moreover, by sewers and drains the earth is made devoid of moisture, and therefore is liable to crack and crumble, and to disturb the foundations of ponderous buildings. St. Paul’s still causes anxiety on this account, and requires all the care and vigilance of the skilful architect who guards it.
The old Norman builders loved a central tower, which they built low and squat. Happily they built surely and well, firmly and solidly, as their successors loved to pile course upon course upon their Norman towers, to raise a massive superstructure, and often crown them with a lofty, graceful, but heavy spire. No wonder the early masonry has, at times, protested against this additional weight, and many mighty central towers and spires have fallen and brought ruin on the surrounding stonework. So it happened at Chichester and in several other noble churches. St. Alban’s tower very nearly fell. There the ingenuity of destroyers and vandals at the Dissolution had dug a hole and removed the earth from under one of the piers, hoping that it would collapse. The old tower