The towers at Chichester Cathedral have had a particularly unfortunate history because of subsidence, which explains the positioning of the 15th-century bell tower at some distance from the cathedral. The south-west tower of the façade collapsed in 1210 and was rebuilt. The north-west tower collapsed in 1635 and was not rebuilt until 1901. The masonry spire was built in the 14th century and was repaired in the 17th century by Christopher Wren. It survived a lightning strike in 1721 and stood for 450 years before it telescoped in on itself on 21 February 1861, fortunately without loss of life. A fund was set up to raise the £48,000 needed for the rebuilding, and the contributors included Queen Victoria. A replica of the old tower and spire was rebuilt.[d] The construction was raised by about 6 feet (1.8 m), by George Gilbert Scott and was completed in five years. It now rises to a height of 82 metres. The rubble from the original spire was used to construct the former West Ashling Congregational Chapel.

The design of the central tower, faithfully reproduced, by Scott, was of the Early English style, having on each side two tall pairs of openings, surrounded by deep mouldings.