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Archbishop of York, and Lord of the manor, had founded certain Prebends in the church, either in addition to a previous number, or as an original endowment, and these Canons of St. Wilfrid were in the enjoyment of their privileges when the Domesday survey was made.
In the beginning of the century succeeding the Norman Conquest, Archbishop Thurstan gave to the “church of St. Wilfrid carucate of land, “in dedicatione,” and also two oxgangs of land in Sharow, for the foundation of a prebend that has since borne
An erroneous interpretation of the intent of the former donation has induced the general statement, most prominently developed in the seventeenth volume of the Archæologia, that Thurstan built the Collegiate Church of Ripon; and that, except the additions and alterations in the Decorated and Perpendicular style, it remains a monument of his genius and liberality to this day.
This noble work, I have, however, had the pleasure to ascertain, is another of the many benefits which the See of York derived from the Pontificate of the wealthy and talented Roger of Bishopbridge, who held it from 1154 to 1181 ; for the chroniclers have recorded comparatively nothing of one whose generosity and piety, in raising the ancient choir of York Cathedral, and the adjacent Collegiate Chapel of St. Sepulchre, will now acquire, at the distance of nearly seven centuries, the honour of another most important work. It was fortunate, therefore, that in this instance he had evaded their neglect; and, in a record which he caused to be prepared, has himself notified—“quod dedimus operi beati Wilfridi de Ripon ad ædificandam basilicam ipsius quam de novo inchoavimus mille libras veteris monetæ." With this treasure a noble pile was begun, as is still evident in those members of it which remain in the transepts, and north-west portions of the choir.
We are not informed how much of the structure was perfected before the Archbishop's decease, though the state of the nave at that period seems only doubtful. After the plan, originally devised by Roger, was completed, the elegant taste and ample resources of some unknown benefactor, dissatisfied with the tall nave, terminating abruptly without aisles on the west, renewed that front in the lancet style, and produced a noble and imposing façade, by the addition of a tower on each side, adorned with lofty spires of timber and lead. The centre tower had, perhaps, been originally adorned by a similar termination, though of much less altitude.
It was, I apprehend, in furtherance of this work, that Archbishop
Wickwane in 1284, and Archbishop Romayne in 1287, had issued their letters of indulgence for forty days to those who should contribute to the works of this church.
Thus efficiently completed, the church remained in beauty and strength until the inroad of the Scots, in 1319, when they set fire to the building, and destroyed some of its inmates.
At this time William de Melton, who had endeavoured to repulse the Scots, held the Archiepiscopal staff with a firm and apostolic hand. His generosity and efficient patronage of architectural science confirms the statement that he applied himself to the reparation of the misfortune, and the eastern portion of the choir is pointed to as his work.
Though the injuries caused by the Scots had not probably extended beyond the Roof, Screens, Stalls, and other inflammable portions of the building, the work of renovation and amplification proceeded slowly. We do not learn how the valiant Archbishop Zouch, who resided awhile at his palace here, encouraged his Canons in the undertaking; but immediately after the appointment of the great Thoresby to the Archiepiscopal chair, he issued, 26th October, 1354, his Letters of Request to Thomas Button and others, to collect the charitable alms of all faithful and well disposed persons within the diocese of York, to the use of the fabric of this Church, and, with the money thus obtained, the work was no doubt completed.
A century had but just elapsed before the Canons were again called upon to repel the attacks of an enemy more insidious and irresistable than the violence of man. The Lantern Tower," which at first was so sumptuously built, was then, as well by neglect of workmen that first made it, as by thunder, and frequent storms and tempests, so much shaken and broken that the greatest part thereof was already fallen, and the rest expected to follow, if no speedy remedy was applied.” The fabric fund being unable to meet the emergency, William Booth, Archbishop of York, was moved, on the 4th of February, 1459, 37 Henry VI., to grant an indulgence of forty days pardon to all such as should afford their charitable relief towards the re-edification, construction, and sustentation of the said steeple.
The rebuilding of the steeple was not fully accomplished. The south and east sides, that called for immediate restoration, were rebuilt after a noble and elegant design ; and a preparation, that now disfigures the interior of the nave, denotes that the rest was
intended to be removed ; but the east wall of the transept, and the southern portion of the choir contiguous to the vitiated angle of the tower, seem to have demanded such immediate attention, that I presume it was deemed more advisable to expend the funds in their reconstruction, than in the completion of the tower. The arms of the See of York, Fountains Abbey, the families of Pigot of Clotherholme, and Norton of Norton, that adorned the late wooden ceiling of the south transept, showed who were the chief contributors to this work. The masses of masonry that had been projected from the tower, had, it is probable, so mutilated the rood-screen and the wooden lattices of the choir, with their contiguous stalls, that a new series of stalls was begun in 1489, and completed in 1494, about which period the rood-screen and sedilia were erected. The ladyloft likewise was built before 1482.
Having thus vigorously " set their hand to the plough,” our Canons proceeded with that enthusiasm and lofty unity of purpose that actuated, so triumphantly, the architectural works of those earlier days, and next turned their attention to the ruined condition of the
Its monotonous length, inaccordant with the aisled amplitude of the rest of the structure, probably suggested its removal, in preference to its restoration ; and it must be allowed that he who was selected to prepare the new design, wrought with no ordinary or unskilful hand.
The precise time when the work was commenced, is at present unknown. The arms of Pigot of Clotherholme, in conjunction with those of the town, on the lower portion of one of the pillars, has been supposed to indicate that this part was erected while Randolph Pigot was Wakeman, in 1471; but this is doubtful authority. A local Chronicle, written in 1615, says that, “ On the 6th day of Februarie, 1502, did the Chapter of the Church of Rippon make ordinances & statutes for the repaire & Re-edifiing of the same beinge at that tyme in great decaye & Ruine;" and the arms of Savage, Archbishop of York, and those of his successor, Baynbridge, as a Cardinal, are good evidence that an interval of at least nine years elapsed before its completion. Leland, who was at Ripon about 1534, observed " the body of the Church of late dayes, made of a great widnesse by the Treasour of the Church and the Gentilmen of the Cuntery.”
Even when an unprophetic eye might note the surging clouds of an impending and most fearful reformation, the Chapter once more met under the presidency of the rich and learned Bradley, late Abbot of Fountains, and Suffragan Bishop of Hull, to deliberate on the renovation of a pile in which they could not reasonably predict that their imposing rites and ceremonies could be celebrated long. On Sunday, the 31st of October, 1546, they set apart a certain portion of their revenue to repair the belfry and wall of the north aisle,* which threatened to fall ; but before their plan could be brought into operation, the structure had passed into ruthless and unfriendly hands.
After the dissolution of the Collegiate Church, with its Chantries, by virtue of the statute of 1 Edward VI., their possessions were leased out by the Crown, and but the pittance of a few pounds reserved to the minister who was appointed to conduct the parochial services. Archbishop Sandys, aided by the influence of the great Burghley, and the Lords Huntingdon and Sheffield, endeavoured to obtain from Queen Elizabeth an endowment equal at least to the dignity of an extensive and populous parish ; but “they never obtained anything but fair, unperformed promises.”
In the awful state of spiritual destitution which then prevailed, not only here, but generally in the North, the establishment of “ An Ecclesiastical College” at Ripon was proposed in 1596,- -as well to supply the parochial cure of souls, as to maintain the Protestant faith by the creation of a learned and intelligent ministry. The list of patrons contained the names of many persons of rank and learning, including Dean Nowell and Hooker, and improveable funds were provided ; yet neither then, nor in 1604, when the burgesses influenced Anne of Denmark in its favour, could the project be carried into effect, although there is evidence that the building was in a state of preparation, and other arrangements made for the reception of students.
The necessity of the case, however, was so far locally recognised, that on the 2nd of August, 1604, King James constituted the late dissolved Collegiate Church of Austin Canons a Collegiate Church, to consist of a Dean and six Prebendaries for ever, and granted to them
many of the ample sources of revenue which the old foundation had received from the piety and charity of numerous benefactors. In
consequence of arrangements which need not be detailed, the Dean and Chapter surrendered the said revenues by deed enrolled 8th of June, 1608, to the King, who, by charter dated the same day,
This must apply to the choir, the nave being but just rebuilt. The words of the act of Chapter are “Sunt nonnulli defectus et Ruinositat' aperte tam Campanilis quam muri lapidis insulæ borealis ejusd’m Eccl'ie qui irrumpunt’r,” &c. Yet the choir exhibits no particular work of that date, and is still in no danger.
constituted the office of Sub-dean, and granted to them, with their ancient Canon Fee Court and many other privileges, the source of revenue they have since enjoyed.
The architectural history of the structure since the Reformation may be briefly narrated. Alderman Theakstone's MS. Chronicle, written in 1615, says, on the 5th of May, 1593, was the greate speare of Sainct Wilfray steeple in Rippon sett on fire by lighteninge about thre of the clocke in the morning, and by God's ayde, & helpe of the Towne's men, it was quinshed before seaven of the Clocke in ye morninge.” From intentions more commendable for their reverence for antiquity, than prudence for the safety of the fabric, the shattered “
speare was allowed to remain until the 8th of December, 1660, when,“ by reason of a violent storn of winde, the great steeple (by which the brief I quote designates the spire), was blown down,” and demolished the roof of the chancel,“ which was the only part where the people could assemble for the duties of public worship." “ The body, likewise, of the said church, which was before very ruinous, being, by the fall of the said steeple, sorely shaken and much weakened, insomuch as the charge for the more necessary repair of the said church, without rebuilding the steeple," was supposed to amount to 60001., the inhabitants obtained the King's letters patent, enabling the Mayor of Ripon, with the Dean and other Commissioners, to receive the contributions of those who should wish to contribute to the good work—pertinently reminding them that “the Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”
The people responded liberally to the royal exhortation ; but, in consequence of the embezzlement of a great portion of the contributions, little more was accomplished than the imperative restoration of the choir roof, and the woodwork it had crushed in its descent. In 1664 the spires of the western towers were removed to obviate the recurrence of another catastrophe.
From this period, though the Chapter paid all the attention which their funds would allow to the immediate requirements of the fabric, the hand of time was effectually performing its insidious and lamentable work, until the appointment of Dr. Webber to the Deanery, in 1829, when it was found that serious and most extensive renovation was required in all portions of the building. Mr. Blore having reported that 30961. would be required to effect an efficient and substantial repair, and 2785l. more “to give to the interior a uniform and consistent character," the Chapter, according to ancient precedent, publicly stated the urgency of the case to their parishioners