CHICHESTER AND VICINITY 45
The interest of Cicestrians in the American Civil War and the stirring events that led up to it was reduced by a disaster in their midst even more disturbing to their minds. An old Sussex couplet is alleged to have prophesied—
" If Chichester church steeple fall, In England there's no King at all."
A queen was on the throne when in the early days of 1861 workmen were engaged up to the last moment over desperate efforts to avert the calamity, but to no purpose. Cracks increased, props bent or snapped, the bulging piers at length gave way, tower and spire came telescoping down, destroying the entire centre of the church and leaving a yawning gap, but fortunately neither hurting any one nor falling beyond that section of the building. A series of timber ties were immediately set up anchoring back the thrust of the remaining arches, and successful efforts were made to prevent any extension of the calamity. At a cost of over £60,000 the tower and spire were rebuilt on the old lines under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott. The only important alteration was slightly to increase the height of the lower stage of the tower that the ridges of the four roofs might meet it more neatly than before. The piers and arches were built up entirely separate from what remained of the church, and the junction was not made until the new work was entirely set. The spire is for the greater part of its height about seven inches thick, strengthened by the corner ribs.
During the seventeenth century the north-west tower had fallen, and Wren (who had sought to