yeovil people

Henry de Yevele

The King's Master Mason, 1360-1400


Henry de Yevele (c1320-1400) was a master-mason and architect. He was the son of Roger de Yevele and his wife Mariona.

He was the most prolific and successful master mason active in late medieval England. The first document relating to him is dated 3 December 1353, when he purchased the freedom of London. In February 1356 he was sufficiently well known as a mason that he was chosen as one of a commission of six cutting masons who were to inform the mayor and aldermen about the acts and articles of the craft.

His first connection with royal building works was probably when he was contracted from March 1357 to September 1359 to remodel the Black Prince's manor at Kennington, at the cost of £221 4s 7d. On 23 June 1360, he was appointed "disposer" of the royal works at the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London. On 27 August 1369 the appointment was confirmed for the remainder of his life, with a salary of 12d a day. He resigned this grant on 22 October 1389 on receiving the manors of Tremworth and Vannes, Kent.

At the Palace of Westminster, Yevele was responsible for re-facing Westminster Hall, and for two other buildings - the clock tower (now destroyed), which stood opposite the north door of Westminster Hall and regulated the sittings of the royal courts of justice there, and the Jewel Tower in the Privy Palace (1365–6). The Jewel Tower is a rare survivor from the medieval Palace of Westminster. It was built as a store for Edward III's valuables. Henry de Yevele used 98 boatloads of Kentish ragstone transported from Maidstone along the rivers Medway and Thames.

At the Tower of London, Yevele was responsible for the Bloody Tower, while several minor works, including the vaulting of the thirteenth-century watergate, were performed by Henry's brother, Robert. The real focus of activity in the king's works at this time, however, was Windsor Castle.

The most significant of Yevele's remaining works are the naves of Westminster Abbey (1362) and Canterbury Cathedral (1377–1400), the latter completed in an early Perpendicular Gothic style.

His position was one of some authority, and he was frequently empowered to impress as many masons and plasterers as he needed, and to imprison those who refused to work for him. On other occasions he was required to provide masons to accompany the various expeditions sent to France. His business relations were extensive; he imported tiles from Flanders, plaster from Paris, and obtained stone from Purbeck, where he held the manor of Langton in 1376. In 1366 he supplied stone for the repair of Rochester Castle, and on 7 May 1378 was appointed to superintend the projected works at Southampton. In 1383–4 he was engaged in repairing the bridge over the Medway between Rochester and Stroud, and on 22 February 1384, ‘in consideration of his great services to the king,’ was granted a ratification of his disputed estate in two shops in St. Martin's-Outwich, London.

Henry de Yevele, as well as being a master-mason, was also an architect. In 1381 he designed the south aisle for the church of St Dunstan-in-the-East, and in 1395 some important alterations in Westminster Hall, introducing the corbels of Caen stone to support the roofs. On 1 April in the same year he undertook to erect ‘the tomb of fine marble’ in Westminster Abbey by which Richard II commemorated himself and his deceased wife, Anne of Austria. It cost £250, and was completed in 1397.

In 1392 there was trouble between Richard II and the City of London. The King was at Nottingham and the City of London selected 24 Commissioners to attend the King there. Of these, Henry de Yevele was one, and the next name on the list was the renowned Richard Whityngtone. So, at least one Yeovilian knew Dick Whittington.

Henry de Yevele died in 1400, and was buried in St Mary's Chapel in the church of St Magnus, near London Bridge, where his monument was probably destroyed by the fire of 1666. His will, dated 25 May 1400, in which he left the bulk of his property to his second wife, Katherine, provided she remained unmarried and paid for masses to be sung in St Magnus Church for Yevele, his first wife Margaret, her father, brothers, and other relatives and benefactors. Yevele also left bequests to the poor of St Magnus parish.


Works that can be attributed to Yevele include:

  • Kennington Manor (part, 1358, destroyed)
  • Bloody Tower of the Tower of London (1361)
  • Abbot's House, Westminster Abbey (1362)
  • Nave and west cloister, Westminster Abbey (1362)
  • Palace of Westminster clock tower (1365, destroyed)
  • Parts of old London Bridge (destroyed)
  • London Charterhouse (1371)
  • The high altar screen of Durham Cathedral (1372–80), shipped in boxes from London to Newcastle
  • Savoy Palace (part, 1376, destroyed)
  • West Gate, Canterbury (1378)
  • The east and south walks of the cloister of St Albans Abbey (probably begun c.1380)
  • The south transept façade of Old St Paul's Cathedral (1381–8)
  • Old St Dunstan-in-the-East (part, 1381, destroyed)
  • Rochester bridge (1383, destroyed)
  • Canterbury city walls (1385)
  • Nave and south cloister of Canterbury Cathedral (1377–1400)
  • Westminster Hall (1395)
  • The tombs of
    • Cardinal Simon Langham (d. 1376) in Westminster Abbey (1389)
    • Edward III in Westminster Abbey (after 1386)
    • Richard II in Westminster Abbey (1395)
    • Edward, the Black Prince in Canterbury Cathedral (1376)
    • Archbishop Simon Sudbury in Canterbury Cathedral (begun mid-1380s?)
    • John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster (1374–80; destroyed) in the choir of Old St Paul's Cathedral.