News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

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Author Topic: Rochester Cathedral  (Read 40839 times)

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Offline smiffy

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #43 on: April 28, 2018, 15:50:11 »
Re. the old oratory chapel - wouldn't drilling a small hole through the wall and having a look with an led equipped microcamera be an option?

Offline MartinR

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #42 on: April 28, 2018, 14:41:06 »
The other candidate is St. Justus.  If so, that is a representation of the Saxon cathedral, not the more recent Norman rebuild due to Gundulf.

Offline kyn

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #41 on: April 28, 2018, 11:00:30 »
I think it might be Bishop Gundulf.

Online Bilgerat

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #40 on: April 28, 2018, 10:37:08 »
Does anybody know who the man is, holding what looks to be a model of a building and which building is it?
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline MartinR

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #39 on: April 27, 2018, 23:30:13 »
An interesting set of photos.  3782 and 3784 must be of the ceiling of the south transept.  The north transept is vaulted in stone whereas the south is merely ceiled in wood.  As far as I can tell this is due to the poor ground conditions leading to instability of the walls - see for example the distortion of the south choir aisle and the rebuilding needed for the south choir transept.  Your 3788, unless I'm very much mistaken, is from the north west pier of the crossing.  There is good reason to suspect that the old oratory chapel was walled up at the time of the reformation, and what you show is one of the reused stones used to wall it up.  Unfortunately I don't think the Dean would be happy with people pulling down a wall of his cathedral on the off chance there is a chapel behind it!

Offline kyn

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #38 on: April 27, 2018, 21:48:59 »
Some photos from a few weeks ago.

Offline Dave Smith

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #37 on: January 18, 2018, 17:10:55 »
MartinR.What a fascinating story, the outcome of, I'm sure, very many hours of research. Not always do we find the real answer when researching, so congratulations! and thanks.

Online Bilgerat

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #36 on: January 17, 2018, 18:08:10 »
Superb stuff MartinR, this is the kind of thing the Kent History Forum is all about. Thank you for posting it.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Lutonman

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #35 on: January 17, 2018, 14:11:14 »
A really interesting story MartinR, thank you

Offline MartinR

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A Ship in the Belfry
« Reply #34 on: January 16, 2018, 21:12:10 »
The article that follows was originally published in "Past Times", the Mensa History special interest group.  It's a little dated, I have since done more research on the bells, and am no longer a ringer at the Cathedral.

A ship in the belfry

As a ringer at Rochester Cathedral I naturally was interested to find out something about the history of the bells.  One thing that stood out was an inscription on the the number 3 bell: "U.S.S. PITTSBURGH IN MEMORY OF 1920".  Why was an American warship being remembered in Rochester in 1920?  Some detective work was called for and a curious case of two worlds touching for a moment emerged.

Rochester Cathedral and its bells

Rochester Cathedral is ancient.  It was founded in 604 by Justus, one of the monks who accompanied Saint Augustine to convert the English.  The original cathedral stood for nearly half a millennium but by 1080 was decaying.  Gundulf was appointed bishop and radical changes started. 

Digressing slightly here, Gundulf was a Norman monk with a penchant for building.  He was responsible for the building of Rochester castle, Colchester castle and the White Tower within the Tower of London.  Gundulf served William I, Willian Rufus and Henry I.  Because of this he became the known as the first King's Engineer, and is accepted as the father of the Corps of Royal Engineers, the army's engineers.  He supervised the building of St. Leonard's Tower at Malling, Kent and founded the Abbey of St. Mary's, a Benedictine convent.  Just outside the old city of Rochester he established the St. Bartholomew's Hospital, the oldest existing hospital in England.

With all this building experience, Gundulf could hardly be expected to tolerate a decayed and ancient cathedral as his seat.  His first venture appears to have been the building of what is now called the Gundulf Tower, a campanile currently used as the practice rooms for the cathedral choirs.  To the east of the old cathedral he built a new presbytery into which the shrine of Paulinus appears to have been translated.  At least one authority (G H Palmer) has speculated that the townsfolk were left with the job of building the nave.  The east end formed the heart of the new priory of St. Andrew.

Under the next two bishops the cathedral was completed and the old one abandoned.  Barely 20 years later the reconstruction of the east end began, taking another 40 years from 1190.  Attention shifted to the crossing and nave.  Some time after 1255 the transepts, crossing and first two bays of the nave had been reconstructed but funds ran out and most of the nave remained Norman.  The tower was finally raised on the 1255 piers in 1343 under bishop Hamo do Hythe.  Not much more happened to the tower until 1730 when the ringers' loft above the crossing was removed and the crossing ceiling vaulted.  Twenty years later the steeple was rebuilt.

Due to problems with the foundations major work was required between 1825 and 1830 during which the tower was demolished and rebuilt without a spire.  In 1840 the crossing vaulting was removed and a timber ceiling placed above the pulpitum.  Between 1871 and 1877 more building work under Sir George Gilbert Scott included a rebuild of the upper part of the tower.  Finally in 1904 the present spire was raised.

The bells of Rochester have had a similar tortuous history to the cathedral they serve.  It is probable that the original cathedral had bells of some form.  The Gundulf tower, as mentioned above, was built as a campanile in the late 1070s.  In 1154 Prior Reginald had an existing bell recast and added a further two.  The  ''Custumale Roffense'' of c. 1300 mentions two further bells being obtained during the 12th century.  When the crossing tower was completed in 1343 Hamo caused four bells to be hung there called Dunstan, Paulinus, Ithamar and Lanfranc.  What happened to the five bells from the Gundulf tower is not clear.

By the mid seventeenth century there were six bells in the central tower.  In 1635 the number three was recast and in 1683 the fifth and tenor.  In 1695 the treble was recast, and again in 1770.  The fourth was recast in 1712 and the second quarter turned: “the striking sides being much worn”.  The 1683 tenor recast in 1834.  When the spire was added in 1904 two further bells were obtained to augment the ring to eight.  At the same time four of the original bells were recast.

In 1918, shortly after the Armistice a suggestion was made that two additional bells be added, Chapter resolved that this required a structural inspection first.  In January 1919 the bellringers again requested an additional two bells which would cost £270 from Mears & Stainbank.  Chapter again required the approval of the cathedral architect.  Later in the year Chapter decided it could not undertake an appeal “at present” due to other liabilities.  In March 1920 a donor for the new bells had been found and Chapter's hand was forced.  Subject to approval by the architect they agreed.  An estimate from Gillett & Johnston was produced at the March meeting.  Sensing an open door, in June the ringers pushed for the old bells to be tuned and recast where necessary.  In October the Cathedral's adviser (Mr W.W. Starmer) suggested a complete recasting of all the bells and a quotation was delivered at the October 23 meeting.  Chapter decided they couldn't afford the recasting, but made public the position to allow “possible donors” a chance to contribute to a war memorial.  The previous week a offer for numbers 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 had been received and Dean Storrs personally guaranteed the remainder.  In November the order was placed and by December the bells had gone to the foundry.  The bells were returned in the first half of 1921 and the account settled on 10 June.

In all this recasting and augmenting, there is an intriguing possibility.  Do the modern bells contain the metal from all the bells dating right back to Gundulf in the eleventh century, and possibly even the putative Saxon bells?  To complete the story of the bells, in 1960 they were rehung in a new steel frame supplied by Taylors.

Local ringers will be aware that there exists on line a significant work describing the bells of Kent and their history: “Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent”.  For many years the entry mentioned the inscription about the USS Pittsburgh and included a footnote: "Note that there is a mystery regarding the inscription on the rear of the 3rd.  The USS Pittsburgh had nothing to do with Rochester Cathedral, and perhaps the inscription appears by mistake”.  The suggest has been mooted that the bell was reused, but this makes no sense, the inscription on the other side is relevant and cast in: “IN REMEMBRANCE OF S. REYNOLDS HOLE, DEAN, DIED 27TH AUGUST 1904. T.H.F.”.  Dean Hole was the Dean of Rochester, and THF is Thomas Hillyer Foord (a noted local philanthropist) who paid for the bell.  The suggestion has also been made that Gilletts used a cope (the outer part of the mould) from an abandoned order and didn't bother to remove the inscription from it.  I feel sure Gilletts' lawyers would like to talk to anyone suggesting such slapdash work!

USS Pittsburgh

Let's leave the bells now and review the history of the USS Pittsburgh, or the USS Pennsylvania as she was at her birth.

“Armored Cruiser No. 4, USS Pennsylvania” was laid down on 7 August 1901 and launched on 22 August two years later.  She was the first of the Pennsylvania class of armoured cruisers designed to be fast, deep water cruisers capable of being involved in fleet actions and able to withstand all but full size battleships.  The was just over 500 ft long and just under 70 ft in beam.  She displaced 13,680 tons and her twin engines and screws could propel her at a sustained speed in excess of 22 knots (25 mph).  Main battery was four 8” guns and fourteen 6” guns.  Secondary battery was eighteen 3” guns, twelve 3-pounders, two 1-pounders, two 3” “field pieces”, six automatic .30 guns and two 18” torpedo tubes.  For protection she had 6” of armour in the belt, turrets and barbettes; 4” on the deck and 9” on the conning tower.  She carried 850 men including 41 officers.
She was stationed on the East coast of the USA at first but in 1906 was sent to the Asiatic fleet.  By 1909 she was back home in Washington.  Again she was deployed westwards visiting San Francisco and Hawaii before heading to Hong Kong, Yokohama and back to San Francisco.  During a short cruise to the Southern Pacific during 1908 she “crossed the line” for the first time.  Several further cruises in the Pacific “showing the flag”occupied the next two years.  During the winter of 1910-11 she had a temporary wooden deck built at her stern, and onto this Eugene Ely landed an aeroplane on the 18 January in San Francisco Bay.  This was the first landing of an aeroplane on a warship.  She then sailed to San Diego Bay, California where additional flying tests were performed.

She then had a couple of years in reserve (but during which she had a sudden trip to China and back).  During this period she was renamed the Pittsburgh to free the name Pennsylvania for the first of a new class of battleships.  From 1913 onwards she was involved both in routine duties and peripherally in the Mexican revolution.  During early 1917 she was prepared for wartime operations in advance of the US involvement.  In May she passed through Panama to join the Atlantic Fleet.  She spent most of the rest of 1917 patrolling the Eastern seaboard of South America though by June 1918 she was off the coast of Chile.  She then sailed to the South Atlantic intercepting German commerce raiders.  Unfortunately she was then badly affected by an outbreak of Spanish 'flu introduced in Rio de Janeiro.  At one point 663 men (80% of the crew) were on the sick list and the final death toll was 58, of whom 41 were buried in Rio.  The patrol was abandoned and Pittsburgh remained in Rio incapable of fighting.  In March 1919 she headed home.

In June 1919 Pittsburgh sailed across the Atlantic as flagship for the US forces in the eastern Mediterranean.  In June she sailed for British and French ports.  Late in August 1920 the Pittsburgh was dispatched to Poland to provide security for Americans there.  She only got as far as Danzig due to political pressures.  In September she moved to Libau (Liepaja), Latvia and there ran aground on some rocks at 10:20 in the evening of the 9th.  Her double bottom was breached in several sections.  Admiral Huse signalled that she was in “no immediate danger”, but as a precaution the holds were pumped and 750 tons of coal jettisoned to lighten the ship.  The Navy Department dispatched the USS Frederick which was currently stationed in Antwerp to assist.  By the time the USS Frederick arrived, HMS Dauntless was standing by.

Pittsburgh and Frederick finally got under way ten days later, and steaming at 8 knots headed for Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey, England.  She arrived at Sheerness at 10:00 on the 23rd.  Her master, Captain Todd, automatically stood trial for the stranding, but was exonerated.

Back at Cherbourg by January 1921, a new Admiral hoisted his flag on her as commander-in-chief of the American Naval Forces in Europe.  In April she visited Rome.  In early July she visited England where her baseball team took on one from the American Army of Occupation at Stamford Bridge, London.  In late July she was at Le Harve and then left for the Philadelphia navy yard for overhaul.  Following her recommissioning in October 1922 she again departed for European waters, taking over the role of flagship from the USS Utah in November.  This cruise lasted until 1924 and included attendance at the Turkish crisis of 1922, the eruption of Etna in 1923 and dedication of the Belleau Woods monument.  The Pittsburgh remained on station in Europe as flagship until relieved in summer 1926 when she sailed  for a refit in New York.

After the refit she sailed for Honolulu to become flagship US Asiatic fleet.  She took on several hundred new recruits, which was to lead to a catalogue of errors during the passage.  Under way she came to the rescue of HMS Wakakura, a British minesweeper with engine troubles.  Eventually it was decided to tow the Wakakura and the captain is quoted as saying “Now remember, we have a ship of the Royal Navy on the towline.  It's your job to see that every action of ours reflects nothing but good seamanship to our cousins astern”.  Pittsburgh had the loudest bell in the fleet, clearly audible in other ships.  At midnight a raw recruit rang twelve single strokes instead of the correct 4 double strokes.  All hell let loose, this was the alarm for a fire on board.  The skipper growled “I only hope those Britishers think we did not have a fire”.  As dawn broke the tow parted but a new line was passed.  The honour of the Pittsburgh was restored – until the skipper reached the bridge and saw the “Stars and Stripes” flying upside down, a signal that the ship was in distress!  The captain left the bridge with his head in his hands.

In December 1926 she relieved the USS Huron as flagship.  China was in the grip of civil war at this time and during 1927 had to deploy her marines to help keep the peace in Shanghai.  By April the international fleet in Chinese waters numbered 172 warships.  As a neutral ship the Pittsburgh was not allowed to return fire even when she was fired upon by Chang Kai-shek's troops.  By March 1928 the crisis was abating and she was in Hong Kong before heading off to Japan for a goodwill visit.  In 1929 it was announced that the Pittsburgh was due for retirement.  In 1930 it was announced that she would be replaced as flagship and after a lengthy farewell cruise was decommissioned on 10 July 1931.

The old lady had one more service to render.  She was used as a target for the development of the Norden Mk XV bombsight.  This raised the hit rate from 20% to 50% and was used throughout the Second World War.  Finally the USS Pittsburgh was sold for scrap on 21 December 1931.

The “Pittsburgh bell”

The Pittsburgh was repaired at Sheerness in 1920.  This looked just too good a co-incidence to ignore.  Further investigation revealed that the Pittsburgh was not actually repaired at Sheerness, but was brought up river to Chatham dockyard where she entered the dry dock for repairs.  Historically ships off-loaded munitions at Sheerness before being allowed up river.  Whether this rule was still applied in 1920 and whether foreign ships had to comply is currently unknown to the author.  She was in dry dock for 2½ months during which time Todd's court martial (mentioned above) occurred.  The crew worked on the ship, but also had time for leisure activities.  Small arms practice  took place on nearby firing ranges and in October Pittsburgh's baseball took on a team of British naval officers and trounced them 21-8.

Looking out from the dockyard, the major buildings at that time were Rochester Cathedral and Castle.  Apparently there was a lot of outreach from the cathedral to the crew.  Before the Pittsburgh sailed the Dean of Rochester organised a special service at the Cathedral.  Flags of both nations were hung from the organ casing in celebration of Anglo-American friendship.  This was, it must be remembered, just 2 years after the end of World War I.  The bell's inscription must therefore have been “in memory of” hospitality and friendship.  Indeed the hospitality must have been generous, Chief Boatswain's Mate Matthews met and married a local girl, Susannah Kitching, the couple eventually settling in New York.

Further research turned up the following letter published in the Chatham News on 17 December 1920.

“Dear Dr. Storrs,

“Before the ship sails from Chatham, I wish to express to you our appreciation of the honor you have done us, in coming aboard to address my officers and men, and for the special service, which you held for us in your Cathedral.

“We are grateful for these kindnesses, and I beg you to thank Mrs Storrs, and the ladies of Rochester, for their entertainment of our men in the Guildhall, Rochester.

“I hand you herewith a check for £52, 10s, from Admiral Huse, the Officers and Men of Pittsburg, to cover the cost of re-casting a bell for the Cathedral chimes.  I understand that it is agreeable to you to have the bell marked “U.S.S. Pittsburgh, 1920.”

“Please accept this as a token of our great appreciation of kindnesses received, and of our sincere desire that our two peoples may always happily associate and feel as kindly toward each other, as we do, to our hosts of the last two-and-a-half months.  May the Pittsburgh bell sound from the Tower of your ancient city a sweet tone, a note of goodwill from us to you.

“Sincerely and respectfully yours,
J.W. TODD, Capt. U.S. Navy, comdg.”

The bell was also specifically mentioned by the bishop during his sermon when the new bells were dedicated in May 1921.  The Chatham News reported: “And that brought him [the bishop] to speak of the significance of one bell ... That bell had been re-cast as a gift from the American Battleship Pittsburgh , one of our Allies in the Great War reminding them [the congregation] of the days of great strain and stress, when they might have feared that not the bell but the whole Cathedral might have been brought to ruin”

merc

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #33 on: April 19, 2015, 13:15:34 »
A small video about some of the archaeological work they've been doing in the Cathedral Crypt. One of my friends has been partially involved in the project :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9JX8nUAfWs&feature=youtu.be&a

Offline kyn

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #32 on: March 18, 2014, 10:53:19 »
I never get tired of visiting the cathedral!

Offline ann

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #31 on: August 21, 2012, 11:18:51 »
This is called the Blisland Madonna and is carved out of 150 year old yew.

Offline sandi_01

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #30 on: February 23, 2012, 16:31:18 »
I also remember a staircase in the cathedral that didnt actually go anywhere? It was in the wall at the right of the worn steps in Kyn's photo. It has been a while since I was in the cathedral. I think it may have been functional many years ago but has been blocked of at the top with the stairs left intact? I'm thinking maybe it was a place where someone could observe people in the cathedral without being seen? Anybody know of the staircase?

Offline sandi_01

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Re: Rochester Cathedral
« Reply #29 on: February 23, 2012, 16:06:00 »
I used to do voluntary work in the cathedral in the 90's. Sadly drunks and drug addicts would congregate in the crypt until security was stepped up. On more than one occasion someone used the crypt as a toilet which was deeply unpleasant for visitors.

On the the whole I enjoyed working there, although I did manage to jam up the till many times to the annoyance of tourists who didn't always understand the concept of me being a volunteer. During thunderstorms the cathedral would suddenly become full of people sheltering from the weather. On quiet days I would search for graffiti and look up at the faces carved in the ceiling. A beautiful place to work in...I would volunteer again just for the privilege.

Sandi

 

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