Phase 2 (1476-1485)

Work resumes

Western corbel angel on north side of the choir

Western corbel angel on north side of the choir, carved during the second period.
Photograph: Mike Dixon © 2011 King’s College, Cambridge [CMR/250, IMG_5534]
Larger image

Work slowly resumed in 1476, with John Worlich as the second master mason. A fragment of a building account from 1443 shows that he was among the ordinary masons working under Reginald Ely in the first phase. This suggests his appointment had as much to do with familiarity with Ely's intentions, as with his own skills as a mason.

In 1480, Edward IV contributed 1000 marks towards the building of the Chapel, which allowed the work to proceed more rapidly. This was to have been paid in three years, however the College paid a bribe in order to receive it early, such was the sense of urgency with which the work was to resume. The entry in Provost Field’s account below reads:

Regardo dato Egidio Dawebeney armigero pro Corpore Regis predicti, et Johanni Bignell Armigero, pro accelaracione M. marcarum de dono Regis Edwardi quarti in tribus Annis habend’ lxvjli xiijs. iiijd

which translated reads

For the payment given to Giles Dawbeny, Esquire of the Body of the aforesaid King [Edward IV], and to John Bignell Esquire, for the advancing of 1,000 marks [666l 13s 4d] from the gift of King Edward IV which is to come into our possession over three years: 66l 13s 4d
Fragment of a building account
Rough building account of Provost Field, 1480-83, entry relating to Edward IV’s gift. [KCD/80]. Larger image

The real second master mason

Photo showing the tracery in the East window

Tracery of the east window. [JS/4/11/46]. Larger image.

In his Essay on the History of English Architecture, published in 1881, George Gilbert Scott credited Worlich with the decision to build a fan vault in the main Chapel and all the necessary changes this entailed. He believed Worlich had been master mason until 1485, but in fact Simon Clerk began in the summer of 1477. In a contribution to English Mediaeval Architects, published in 1954, Arthur Oswald claimed Worlich’s contribution was only minimal, and called Simon Clerk the true second master mason. On Clerk’s contribution he wrote:

Simon Clerk can have been responsible for little in the design of the chapel as it stands, but the tracery of the east window is probably due to him. He may also have designed the internal stone panel-work above the windows and it is not unreasonable to suppose that he made drawings for the high vault, to which Wastell [master mason of the third period] may have owed something.

Harvey and Oswald (1954) p 63

In support of his hypothesis that Clerk had made drawings, he noted the purchase of ‘forel’ (forale), or thin smooth parchment for the chief mason and Martin Prentice (chief carpenter) in May 1480.

Martin Prentice

Painting of the woodwork under the Chapel roof

Monochrome wash of the space between the vault and the roof, painted by E Challis, 1833. [JS/4/13/07]. Larger image.

While much is known about the craftsmen involved in the Chapel, not least through the work of Arthur Oswald and John Saltmarsh, most attention is paid to the master masons. It is worth reflecting on the work of one chief carpenter though.

Chief carpenter during the second period, it was Martin Prentice who created the oak roof covered with lead, under which the five eastern bays of the fan vault were subsequently built. The remainder of the roof was built by Richard Russell (master carpenter of the third period) thirty years later, using Prentice’s design. Prentice’s design is said to contain the earliest examples of tenons with diminished haunches.

Death of Richard III

When Richard III’s short reign (1483-1485) ended, the second period in the building of the Chapel had ended. He had contributed generously towards the costs of the building, so his death led work to stop until 1508, when funds were made available again. It has been suggested that around this time the five eastern bays were closed off with a temporary western wall and a doorway constructed in the fourth western side-chapel.

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