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Vertue, William

Vertue, William (fl. 1501–d. 1527). English master-mason, the brother of Robert Vertue sen. He worked with his brother on Bath Abbey Church, Som., from 1501. From c.1502/3 the vaults of the nave, aisles, and transepts of St George's Chapel, Windsor, Berks., were under construction, and it is known William Vertue and John Aylmer contracted to vault seven bays of the choir of the Chapel to follow the design of the nave-vault. They also contracted to build the flying buttresses, parapets, pinnacles, and all carvings.

Vertue visited King's College Chapel, Cambridge, on at least three occasions, and in 1507 there are records he was at a meeting in Cambridge with Henry Smyth and others to discuss the resumption of the works there. In 1509 Vertue again visited Cambridge with Henry Redman, probably to act as advisers on the fan-vault, and in 1512 Vertue and Wastell are known to have dined in Hall shortly after Wastell signed the contract to build the vault, so it is reasonable to surmise that Vertue, as one of the great masters of the design of fan-vaults, was called in as consultant.

He became King's Master-Mason at the Tower of London in 1510, but his main work at the time was at King Henry VII's (reigned 1485–1509) Chapel, Westminster Abbey, where he was in charge after the death of his brother in 1506. He also designed buildings at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1512–18), and visited the site on several occasions. He may have supplied designs for Thornbury Castle, Glos. (c.1511), and probably designed the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, to replace the earlier structure destroyed in a fire (1512). He and Henry Redman designed the west side of the Court of Eton College, Bucks., including Lupton's Tower, and Vertue probably was responsible for Lupton's Chantry Chapel in Eton College Chapel (1515). Humphrey Coke was also involved in the works at Eton. Vertue designed the cloister and fan-vaulted cloister-chapel of St Stephen in the Palace of Westminster (1526).

Vertue must be regarded as one of England's greatest architects. His mastery of the techniques and intricacies of fan-vault construction enriched the architectural heritage of late-Gothic England, and his work at Windsor and Westminster is unparalleled for its beauty. It is fair to say it was the culmination of English medieval architecture.


J. Harvey (1987);
Jane Turner (1996);

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