Robert Alexander Hillingford (1825-1904)
Robert Alexander Hillingford (1825-1904)

Cromwell's troops desecrating Wells Cathedral

Details
Robert Alexander Hillingford (1825-1904)
Cromwell's troops desecrating Wells Cathedral
signed 'R. Hillingford' (lower right)
oil on canvas
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.)

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Lot Essay

Wells Cathedral in Somerset is one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in England. In 1180 the foundations of the current cathedral were laid, replacing the previous Saxon building. Build in the Gothic style, the cathedral was described during the Medieval era as 'the most poetic of the English Cathedrals'. A further period of additional building took place in the late 14th Century.
After a time of great turbulence during the Reformation, during which the brasses had to be sold to help maintain the Cathedral's depleted coffers, one of relative stability followed during the reign of Elizabeth I. She gave a new charter to the Vicars Choral and the Chapter which led to the establishment of a new governing body for Wells Cathedral, giving it autonomy over all its estates and affairs but removing its right to elect its own dean.
However, the advent of the English Civil War in 1642 again saw a period of great violence and upheaval. In particular, the stonework of the Cathedral was damaged and property belonging to the Church was stolen.200 of the 500 limestone statues on the lower tier of the West Front of the Cathedral were destroyed by Cromwell's troops. The medieval stained glass windows were also smashed. The dean at the time, Dr. Walter Raleigh, was captured after the fall of Bridgewater to Cromwell's troops. He was returned to Wells where he was imprisoned at the deanery. It was here that he was discovered by his jailer to be writing a letter to his wife on the outside. When he refused to disclose the contents of the letter, his jailer attacked him, fatally wounding him and Dr. Raleigh died several weeks later. After this tragedy, Cromwell refused to appoint a dean to Wells Cathedral and the building fell into disarray. It was only with the Reformation in 1660 that the fortunes of the Cathedral were restored.
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