Canterbury Cathedral I

By William Morris

As Mr Loftie's letter, quoted in your columns, calls on our Society by name, and as the letters of the Dean of Canterbury and Mr Beresford Hope touch our principles closely, I venture to hope that you will give me space for a word or two on the subject of the restoration of the choir of Canterbury Cathedral. As to the present woodwork at the west end, it seems superfluous to praise it, as it is agreed on all hands that it is good, though in some people's minds I suppose it would be condemned as inherently unholy, because it is a post-Reformation work. But, good as it is, I cannot conceive what purpose it can serve when it is taken away from the place it was made for, and in which it looks both dignified and serious, as well as elegant; furthermore, what is to be the fateof the present stone screen when Sir Gilbert Scott's conjectural restoration of Prior Eastry's work is carried out? It is true that its surface has been destroyed by restoration, but it has been at least a fine work of a good date.

It may seem a little matter to make a stir about a piece of clever joinery and carving of Charles II's time, when the great work of the twelfth century Frenchman is about it and above it, but I must confess to sharing that fear which Mr Beresford Hope thinks has made reason unhelpful to Mr Loftie; for I suppose that the proposed imitation, restoration or forgery of Prior Eastry's rather commonplace tracery is only the beginning of the evil day at Canterbury, and that before long we shall see the noble building of the two Williams confused and falsified by the usual mass of ecclesiastical trumpery and coarse daubing that all true lovers of art and history dread so sorely; that, in short, the choir of Canterbury will go the way of Ely, St Cross, and Salisbury.

Sir, I think that our ancient historical monuments are national property and ought no longer to be left to the mercy of the many and variable ideas of ecclesiastical propriety that may at any time be prevalent among us.

Letter to the Times, 4 June 1877.

The reference to this piece of work in the Chronology