Cathedral and Church Archaeology
Cathedrals, churches and abbeys (intact or ruined) are among our most treasured historic assets.
Many of the larger and better known examples such as Salisbury Cathedral welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, but even the humblest parish church will receive its share of attention. This level of public interest brings its own pressures – of erosion on the one hand, and the need for adequate facilities for visitors on the other. Both can present considerable challenges, and there is usually a substantial need for archaeological input. Many of the issues that need to be addressed are common to all churches, whatever their size: how can we make our buildings fully accessible, and are facilities such as meeting rooms, toilets and heating (if they exist!) fit for purpose? We deal with such issues not only at our cathedrals, but also at a string of smaller churches.
Salisbury Cathedral is one of our most remarkable historic buildings of any sort, and it is of course one of our greatest churches. It is very largely of a single phase, built from around 1220 to the mid-1260s. Its magnificent 14th-century spire is the only major addition to the 13th-century work, though of course there have been many changes and alterations internally down the ages since then. The challenge for current and future generations is to ensure that the extraordinarily rich heritage of the Cathedral (and its remarkanly complete Close, or precinct) is retained and cherished. This does not mean that it should (or can) be preserved unchanged - indeed it is in the nature of all buildings that they need to be maintained and repaired from time to time, and stonework is always susceptible to erosion. Change is therefore inevitable, but it must be managed with the utmost care. That is where we have an important part to play as Cathedral Archaeologist.