Henry Yevele was a master stone mason and architect born around 1320 probably in Derbyshire. He had a brother Robert who was also a stone mason.
Edward III appointed Yevele as the Master Mason in charge of work done to the Bloody Tower at the Tower of London and also for work done on Westminster Hall. He also carried out extensive work for Edward III’s son, the Black Prince.
The Black Death caused a labour shortage and along with many surviving stone masons Yevele was forced into the King’s service for the construction of Windsor Castle seen in the plan of the castle from Norden’s Survey 1607. Yevele was a prolific architect and was associated with a wide range of work such as castles, churches and bridges. Both Edward III and Richard II employed Yevele as Principal Mason and Chief Architect. Work at Portchester Castle undertaken between 1384 to 1385 by the stone mason Hugh Kympton was under the supervision of Yevele who was overseeing so many projects that he could not possibly have undertaken the work himself.
Between 1378 and 1379 Yevele advised on the building of the new Castle Keep at Southampton. He made use of the existing 200 foot diameter mound that had become compacted over the years and on to this he constructed a large cylindrical tower topped with four turrets. He also built a barbican to defend the Keep’s outer gate. Yevele’s Castle at Southampton was spectacular and rose high above the town’s roof tops. John Leland described the Castle as “….being both large and fair and very strong”. Shown is part of Speed’s map of 1611 showing the castle. It is thought that Yevele was the architect for the stretch of walls in Southampton known as “The Arcades” that were designed to protect the town from attack by the French. These were built around the same time as he was working on Southampton Castle. Henry Yevele is still remembered for the scale and simplicity of his work that combines structural with aesthetic strength. He died in 1400.
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