We thus establish, as I conceive, with absolute certainty, the date of the completion of the eastern half of the choir - the "sanctuary" or "presbytery;" a point entirely misconceived hitherto. To Bitton, and not to Stapledon, it must be ascribed. And we shall see reason presently for ascribing to him the substantial features of the remainder, and the vaulting of the whole. But we may well pause here, for a moment, to estimate his work.

And it was a mighty stride indeed that was made by Bitton, in the way of carrying out the Quivilian idea. Boldly grappling with the difficulties inseparable from the solidity of the Norman walls, he pierced them with far wider and loftier arches, resting upon entirely new pillars of marble, raised and re-constructed the vaulting, and inserted both above and below, ample windows, occupying the entire space between the buttresses; which he elevated into "arcs-boutants" or "flying buttresses," to receive the lateral thrust of the loftier vaulting.

The new pillars were formed of vast and solid horizontal slices (or partial slices rather, as examination shows) of Purbeck marble, from 9to 15 inches thick; each pillar presenting, in its bold boutells or flutings, 5 on each side, the appearance of 25 shafts bound in one. Among them were no doubt included those two very remarkable pairs of Purbeck marble pillars, which flank the choir entrance: since there is a charge in 1302 for "great spikes (spikis) for the gate of the choir;" proving that, though the present screen was 20 years later, the western part of the choir was finished at this time, at least in a contemporary way. Eastward, the new work was carried on, as we have seen, to the altar steps, on either side of which there was paving; while for the general area of the choir we find 11,0001/2 of tiles laid down at 11s per thousand. The aisles were paved at the same time. (Fabric Rolls, 1302-3.)

The great work of the vaulting, though ascribed hitherto to Bitton's successor, was doubtless his alone, except the painting of the bosses and ribs. Preparations were made for the whole in his tenth year (1303). Stone in vast blocks was brought from Portland for the great central bosses; while capitals and bases (either for the side-shafts of each of the thirty windows, or for the aisle vaulting shafts) 60 in all, were imported ready carved. (34) The 30 great ridge bosses in the choir were carved on the spot, at 5s. each; those for the aisles at 3s. 6d. each. (35) And that the vaulting was actually completed in Bitton's time by the insertion of the "keys," or keying stones, in their places, is certain; since we find them all ready for colouring in the first year of his successor. The leading of the south aisle seems also to have been done in 1304 or 1305 (Fabric Rolls, n.d.) (36): that of the choir was left for Stapledon.

It will be seen, from these interesting details, that the architectural fame of Bishop Bitton has hitherto been infinitely less than it deserves to be. The exquisite geometrical traceries, more especially, of the windows in the aisles and clerestory, (that of the East window, alas! is lost), while following, as will be seen hereafter, the lead of Quivil's in the Lady Chapel, are a decided advance upon them in point of beauty. It may be well to add here, that the mouldings of Bitton's choir work are clearly distinguishable {see p. 14) from those of Quivil's work in the Transepts, first bay of Nave, and Lady Chapel; and fix the type which prevailed, with little or no variation, throughout the rest of the transformation period.

Bishop Bitton deceased September 25th, 1307: but, from various causes (detailed by Oliver, Lives p. 55), his successor, Stapledon, was not consecrated until October 13th, 1308. The Fabric Roll for this year of interregnum (Michs. 1307-8) is not forthcoming: an indication, perhaps, that the work was suspended, and that the carrying on of them depended much upon the personal activity of the Bishop for the time being.

Now Stapledon's first act, as recorded in the Roll of 1308-9, was (after inserting in the aisles some stained glass, (37) left already, no doubt, by Bitton), to colour the bosses in the vaulting of the Choir. It will be remembered, that these had been carved as long ago as 1303-4. This must have been done while they were yet upon the ground: and I am informed that the depth and intricacy of the undercutting forbids the supposition that they could possibly have been carved after they were elevated into their lofty position; nor is it usual so to carve them. The colouring, on the contrary, it is usual to lay on afterwards. Hence we gather, with certainty, that the vaulting of the Choir was completed at some time between 1303 and 1308. And this is a most valuable date to have ascertained. It gives us exactly, as in the case of the Lady Chapel, the epoch of completion of one entire and very important portion of the Cathedral fabric. And to the glory of Bishop Bitton, and of him alone, among our Bishops and builders, does the great enterprise redound.

It is of the utmost importance to insist upon this, and to be quite clear in our minds about it, because the conclusion thus arrived at is entirely at variance with the account handed down by all our historians without exception. That account (assumed by me to be correct when my Lectures were delivered) ascribed the building of the four eastern bays to Stapledon. The inexorable testimony of the Fabric Rolls, however, leaves no room for doubting that this is an error. Nor is it difficult to see how this misconception arose, or to trace it to its first author.