On this day in history : 29th September 1258 – The Consecration of Salisbury Cathedral…. At 123m (404ft) it has the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom….
Salisbury Cathedral was built in a style we now call early English Gothic…. The foundation stones were laid on the 28th of April by William Longspee, the 3rd Earl of Salisbury and his wife, Ela of Salisbury…. Many powerful people of the time helped to provide the materials used to build the Cathedral…. King Henry III donated trees from his estates in Wiltshire and Ireland for the timber – whilst Alice Brewer supplied marble from her Purbeck quarry for the columns and bases…. The Bishop, Dean and 52 Canons all contributed financially….
The main body of the Cathedral had been completed by the consecration date but there was still much to be done…. The West Front, Cloisters and the Chapter House were all still to be built…. Salisbury now has the largest Cloister and largest Cathedral Close in Britain….
The spire was added between 1300 and 1320….Its height was not unusual at that time – the old St. Paul’s in London and Lincoln Cathedral both had spires even taller…. However, being made from timber and lead neither lasted; Salisbury is now the only one surviving and since the late 1500s has been the tallest in Britain….
Not long after the spire’s completion problems began to arise…. The original builders of the Cathedral had not planned for such a spire – the weight, pressing down on the centre of the building began to distort it by pushing the columns out of alignment…. There was a serious threat of the Cathedral collapsing…. In the mid 1300s work began to reinforce the structure – iron ties and buttresses were added, along with arches across both sets of transepts….
The spire has undergone repair work several times over the centuries – most famously when Christopher Wren was commissioned to undertake an architectural survey…. He discovered the spire to be leaning by 30 inches – and iron rods were inserted to strengthen the structure…. Hundreds of years later, when this work was inspected, it was found that the spire had not budged another inch….