On 29th April 1520, the central tower of St Mary’s collapsed.
The extensive alterations made to the church had gradually, and fatally, weakened the original twelfth-century tower. During the evening service, the west front of the tower buckled, knocking into the northern nave arcades, bringing down the clerestories and timber roof. Fifty-five people were killed.
This horrific event could have in fact been far worse – records from the time note that the church was less full than usual because many parishioners were instead watching bear baiting in town.
Our fullest account of the fall of the tower survives from the so-called ‘corporation pew.’
This large, canopied pew once stood in the nave, and contained a contemporary inscription regarding the incident and its aftermath. Parts of the corporation pew now reside in the Priests’ Rooms.