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Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey

henry-vii-chapel-carving

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Drawing showing the extent of stone replacement. The green is Portland Stone, the blue, Bath.
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Renewed cupolas and flying buttress copings. Cupolas on the Houses of Parliament may be seen behind.
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Cupolas on the North side, renewed down to string course level.
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Oak Leaf Crockets. I designed different ornamental types for each pair of cupolas mirrored across the building.
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Crockets. This design, a very common Gothic form, is known by carvers as Strawberry Leaf.
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Crockets. Their aesthetic function is to give life and vitality to the outline of the building.
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Crocket. The design is cut very deeply so that it can still be seen from a distance, against the light.
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Strawberry Leaf Crockets. Note the diaper work on the ashlar faces of the cupolas, which create a rich 'tiled' effect.
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The apex of the octagonal cupolas are terminated in elaborate finials comprising 16 crockets and a four part bud.
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Cupola. Note the contrasting tones of the Portland stone above and the Bath below.
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Upper level string course, with Tudor Rose boss, foliated frieze and blind tracery panelling.
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Blind tracery panels, with miniature gablet crockets and pinnacles.
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Blind tracery panels. As with cupolas, each bay has a different crocket design.
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Upper parapet string course ornamented with Tudor Rose boss and foliate frieze.
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Upper parapet string course with Fleur-de-lys boss and foliate frieze.
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Upper parapet string course frieze. A complex and lively design copied from a model elsewhere on the building.
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Turret Niche canopy detail in Bath stone. The close co-operation of mason and carver is demonstrated in this piece.
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Turret Niche Canopy. This highly complex feature incorporates blind tracery panelling, finials, pinnacles, foliate cusps, pendant bosses, and inside the canopy, a miniature vault.
Description of Project

Henry VII, reputedly a notorious miser, lavished a fortune on the building of a new Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Intended by its founder as the mausoleum of the newly established Tutor dynasty, it is heavily ornamented with heraldic motifs, insistently proclaiming the family pedigree. The building, with its perfectly preserved sculptural scheme internally, has the most significant assembly of late medieval carving and sculpture in the country. However, the external fabric was entirely refaced in 1819 in Bath Stone, as the original Reigate Stone was ruinously derelict. By 1993, the parts of the Chapel most exposed to the weather were again in need of restoration. The quantity and quality of the work involved, both in masonry and carving, allowed a whole generation of craftsmen to hone their skills to the highest level. I was in the fortunate position of Head Carver of the carving shop that swelled to 12 in number over the three years of the contract, and was charged with organising, designing and delivering all the carved detail for this important monument.

Henry VII Chapel

Westminster Abbey

Category: Restoration | Gothic
Ornamental carving

Start Date:1993
End Date:1996
Client Name: RATTEE and KETT
Name of Architect: DONALD BUTRESS

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