The masons and building works of Durham priory, 1339-1539
The building activities of the Durham monks in the two centuries before the Dissolution are analysed using the evidence of the surviving remains, early depictions of works since destroyed, and the extensive contemporary archives. Besides the cathedral-priory itself, the buildings of the monastery's six northern cells (Coldingham, Holy Island, Fame Island, Finchale, Jarrow, and Monkwearmouth), and those of the thirty appropriated churches north of Humber still surviving, are also considered. The analysis examines the date, cost, and stylistic context of the building works, providing a comprehensive assessment of the priory’s architectural output. The existence of long-term variations in the selectivity and quantity of information about building in the priory's financial documents is demonstrated; an understanding of these is deemed indispensable in assessing the evidential value of the documents in interpreting changes in the material record. The pattern of building activity is related to the economic background and other claims on the priory's resources. Particular attention is paid to the years c. 1350-75, the only period of across-the-board renewal, when the chronology of works and distribution of common stylistic features suggest a co-ordinated building policy, probably reflecting the supervision of a single master mason, John Lewyn. The priory's treatment of its appropriated churches, and its interaction with parishioners in maintaining and altering these, is also evaluated. The role of episcopal and secular patrons m determining the frequent use of high- status masons from outside Durham as consultants is contrasted with the generally more limited calibre of masons employed on the monks' own initiative. It is argued that the priory’s employment of masons can only be understood in the context of this pattern of patronage and of the underlying pattern of building activity. The career of the best-known, Lewyn, is singled out for detailed reassessment.