25 years ago this month, on the 15th– 16th of October 1987, southern England was devastated by a Great Storm. Sussex took a battering leaving four dead and hundreds homeless. Ancient trees in many local woodlands were uprooted and the results can still be seen today in the abundance of many younger specimens. Chichester Cathedral came in for its share of damage, especially the spire and central tower, where the tops of the two southern pinnacles were dislodged. Four large, heavy sheets of Victorian lead were ripped from the NW tower and crashed onto the grass between the cathedral and bell tower. Part of this roof was eventually recovered from East Street.
But just over 800 years ago, in the year 1210, another Great Storm did far greater damage to our Cathedral. This storm also swept through southern England wreaking havoc on many of the larger Norman buildings. Churches as far away as Evesham and Bury St Edmunds were affected, but at Chichester two of the cathedral’s towers were severely damaged. One was the Norman south-west tower, the top of which collapsed to be replaced within about 30 years with two top stages and thickened buttresses, in the Early English Gothic style. This can still be clearly seen today. The other tower that was damaged was probably the central tower, which appeared to have been ‘repaired’ poorly within existing Norman stone work, possibly leading to the later catastrophe with the spire.
Will we be prepared for the next Great Storm to hit our area?