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belonged to his Office and has acquired land on the Manor of the Bishop
for the erection of a suitable house for the Goldsmith of the Monastery.

It would appear that when the estates of the Abbacy of Ely were
divided between the first Bishop and the Prior and Convent, all manorial
rights in the ville or township of Ely were in due proportion assigned
to the Chapter or the Bishop, and that in accordance with this division
the soil or the tenements in the Stepil Row fell in part to the one Manor,
in part to the other.

Thus Alan of Walsingham in 1325-6 found himself confronted with
the fact that, in order to wall round and extend his premises, he must make
purchases of land, and incur other expenses j and it is in this we must look
for the explanation of one of the earliest entries in this Roll v. which tells
of a payment of jQ'j to the Bishop " for stalls or shops lately purchased
within the new wall of the Sacristy." This entry appears not for this
year only, but in all succeeding accounts of the Sacristy; and further
light is thrown on the matter by an entry, on page 57, which speaks of
an expenditure of jQio. 17s. nd. (the figures are in the margin) for what
has been done within the Sacristy.

32 (goff QXo. x>.

So far we have only the earliest part of an extensive undertaking which
the monkish historians treat as a separate work redounding to Alan's
praise, and which figures among the larger outlays of money which were
made in his days '.

It is to this large outlay that the Monastery of Ely is indebted for the
buildings which now abut on the High Street, and of which the chief
features are, the great tower with the fire-proof room over the archway
which forms the main entry into the College, and the lesser tower which
is now used as a belfry for the parish of Holy Trinity and for a receptacle
for the fire-engines of the city. This latter tower was the boundary of the
land which Alan acquired or possessed towards the west, and from it he
turned his buildings southward to the Lady Chapel.

The historians of the Monastery explain that this lesser tower was
designed to provide a shop for the Goldsmith on the ground floor, with
one room for a " counting-bord " above, and another for stores 2 . The
erection of the wall in the Sacristy and the stone "camera" in the angle
of the new buildings are both mentioned in this Roll, page 55.

The cost of the Goldsmith's shop in the Sacristy is entered on page 57,
but an error of the scribe, which was made in the original Roll, has
necessarily been repeated in the transcript. The figures of the cost,
^10. 17^. nd., have been placed in the left hand margin, whereas they
should have been on the right hand side, forming another "summa"
necessary to make the addition of all expenses correct, as given on

page 59, ;£i77- "• 7^-

The seven entries of purchases of shops, which follow with a new
" summa " (which is wrongly added), have reference to another acquisi-
tion of property carried out by Alan in the neighbouring Cemetery.

For it appears that although the hands of the Sacrist seem to have been
sufficiently full of diverse works, he threw himself into another enterprise ;
and got into his possession four more cottages also needing to be repaired.
These were in the Cemetery, two lying on the one side, two on the other side
of the Stepil gate, forming the line which touched the corner tower of the
Sacrist's new building on the east and continued westward as far as
the Cemetery extends.

1 " Custus noui muri juxta Cimiterium cum seldis ibidem perquisitis, una cum
constructione nouarum domorum, portarum, et murorum per circuitum in Sacristaria
per xij annos clxxx/. xiijs. x}d. et quadrans. Unde pro quatuor seldis perquisitis
xj/. x denarii." Anglia Sacra, vol. i. p. 644.

2 " In angulo quoque boreali juxta cimiterium cameram lapideam quadratam plumbo
tectam construxit. In cujus parte superiori est camera quredam cum mensa quadrata ad
calculandum et ad proventus officio pertinentes recipiendum. Sub qua est duplex
camera muro lapideo diuisa, una pro selda aurifabri, et alia pro quodam parvo cellario
pro vino officii, cum habeatur, reponendo." Anglia Sacra, i. p. 646.

(Hoff Qto. p. 33

And why this design to obtain four more tenements ? Is it pure greedi-
ness ? Nay, it is an act of loyal duty to his office. Those four cottages
were from ancient times the property of the Ely Sacrist, charged with the
obligation of providing candles for the Cathedral Altars ; and in some way
they had slipped out of the hands of his predecessors and had come to be
regarded as episcopal property. A copy of a deed by Bishop de Longchamp
touching these cottages is preserved in an Ely episcopal register, from
which it is evident that the "selde," a hundred and twenty years before
Alan's time, had acquired an uncomfortable way of getting out of the
Sacrist's possession, and that the Sacrist of that day had had recourse to
his Bishop for a written witness that they belonged to his office 1 .

It was doubtless through that deed that Alan was able to re-enter on
the possession of the cottages, though not without considerable expense for
remunerating the tenants and for obtaining the King's recognition of his
claim. This story will explain an entry on page 58 of this Roll, " Paid to
the Lord King for his recognition of the tenements which belonged to the
Sacristy in Ely on the vacation of Bishop Ketene." A lengthened account,
in seven paragraphs on page 57, gives Alan's own statement concerning
the expenses of the transaction 2 .

The Sacrist is also much occupied this year with his stable ; he
purchases a new palfrey at the fair of Wynewaloy 3 , giving for it the large
price of £6. 17 s. id., and the scribe tells us that a saddle and bridle "de
nouo " were bought for the Sacrist.

On the supposition that one shilling at that time is represented by
twenty shillings now, the price paid by Alan for his palfrey at the fair would
be ^137. is. 8d.; but this is not the largest price recorded in a Sacrist's

1 Willielmus, Dei Gratia, Episcopus Elyensis Apostolice sedis Legatus, et Domini
Regis Cancel larius, omnibus See. Matris Ecclesie filiis, Salutem. Noverit universitas
vestra nos concessisse Sacrarie Elyensis Ecclesie et ad luminaria ipsius Ecclesie assignare,
quatuor sopas in Ely. Quarum due adherent turri Sci. Petri ex parte orientali, alie due
ex parte occidentali in puram et perpetuam elemosinam ; que sope ante tempus Episco-
patus nostri ad predictam Sacristariam pertinebant. Bishop of Ely, Registrum M, p. 168.

2 It is interesting to observe that in the survey of Ely by Bp Fordham, 100 years later,
these same four cottages appear, two on each side of the Stepil gate ; and they are noted
as being in the ownership of the Sacrist.

The name assigned to the Stepil gate in Bishop de Longchamp's deed is of no little
interest — "Turris Sci. Petri."

3 At Wynewaloy, in Norfolk, where the Sacrist purchased his horse, was a re-
ligious House belonging to the Abbey of Musterol in the diocese of Amiens, France.
That Abbey sold it in 1321 ; and in 1336 it came into the possession of Elizabeth
de Burgh, Lady of Clare, a benefactress of Ely, who is mentioned on page 99 of Roll
viij. It took its name from St Winwaloch or Guenolo, and had the privilege of fair,
which Alan himself attended this year, as he tells us in page 58, charging the office with
boat and carriage hire and with food from the store-room. Cf. Taylor, Index Monasticus,
Norwich (ed. 183 1).

C. VOL. I. 3

34 (Soft (}t0, *♦

Compotus ; in Roll ii. a horse presented to the Bishop was valued at
;£i6, which, by the same scale, works out at ^320. And the suggestion
is precluded that this large sum was given for several horses, by the entry
" pro j. equo " given to the Bishop. Such large prices for ambling palfreys
in the 14th century justify the unwillingness of learned writers in these days
to fix on any certain ratio between the money values of past centuries and
of our own time.

More stone is purchased this year for the Church, which together with
stone dug for filling, etc., amounts to ^63. 14s. 5^., to which must be
added for lime, etc., ^7. 7^. $d.

John, the master mason, receives his wages, which with the payments
to other masons amount to £31. i8j. 7^. Master John appears now to
have become more settled in Ely, for a " camera " or chamber is allotted
to him under agreement; he receives also (with others) a robe and a fur coat.

The eight columns of the Octagon Tower are mounting up, doubtless,
but of their progress we have no exact mention. Some slings are mended,
a water pipe laid down, baskets and barrows and sling ropes provided; but
workmen are also occupied, both masons and carpenters, in the Cemetery,
putting up a paling of boards, which is described as being outside the
Church door. The hinges and a lock which were bought, were (we may
suppose) for an opening in the paling, and the door spoken of in the
Church may have been in the position now occupied by the large entrance,
restored and renewed by Sir Christopher Wren. If so, the result would be
the enclosing a large part of the so-called Cemetery towards the east, for
the convenience of the workmen engaged on the Church ; the whole area
of the now existing burial ground probably not being needed for interments
in the 14th century. The exact position in which a charnel house stood
has not been discovered.

The accounts for the year 1325 — 1326 are as follows :

Expenses of the Sacristy including

arrears; and 2 purchases of

Cost of Novum Opus

Receipts of the Sacristy

123- 5-


244. 3.
20. 1.


£z°°- 7- i±

264. 5. 4|

Deficiency at end of year 36. 1. 2>h

The length of the Roll is 6 feet 6 inches. The heading is imperfect ;
the sinister side in bad condition ; and the marginal notes wanting. Large
portions quite illegible. It commences with expenses. The Custus Noui
Operis is on the last skin, with summary of all expenditure at the foot. In
dorso the receipts.




(g,fan of WafBtngflann Sacrist from Michs. 1334
to Michs. 1335.

For eight years, there is an interlude of unbroken silence touching the
work going on under Walsingham's superintendence ; all the Sacrist Rolls
for that period have perished or at least have gone astray.

This huge gap accentuates the doubt, already expressed, whether the
extant Rolls for the 20 years of Alan's work on the Church can be made to
yield any clear scheme of the continuous growth of the building of the
central tower.

A table, however, of the Rolls which are missing after our Roll v.,
though it be no better than an obituary notice, will enable us to realize how
great is the hiatus between that Roll and Roll vi.

The Sacrist Roll v., which closed at Michaelmas 1326, gives Alan's
account of the fourth year of his work according to the computation of the
historians of the Monastery. After this begins the tale of losses ; there
are no Sacrist's accounts for the following years :
Michaelmas 1326 to 1327,
„ 1327 to 1328,

in which year the stone octagon was completed and the wooden structure

commenced 1 ;

Michaelmas 1328 to 1329,

1329 to 1330,

„ 1330 to 1331,

1331 to 1332,

1332 to 1333,

1333 to 1334.

l " Quod quidem opus usque ad superiorem tabulatum per vi. annos consummatum
anno Domini mcccxxviii. Et statim illo anno ilia artificiosa structura lignea novi
Campanilis... super predictum opus lapideum sedificanda fuit incepta." Anglia Sacra,
vol. i., p. 644.


36 QRoff (Jto* X>U

These years can neither be filled from contemporary documents, nor by the
liveliest imagination ; yet, if they must be spanned by a sudden leap, the
possibilities which lay in them of a considerable advance in the woodwork
of the Lantern must not be ignored when Roll vi. is opened.

The ordinary business of the office went forward this year as in earlier
Rolls ; the usual expenses appearing under the accustomed heads.

Two marginal notes, however, which are interpolated, are of peculiar
significance, as introducing new matter ; and as indicating that the Sacrist
was feeling himself free at that time (the 13th year of his work) to let his
energies run out beyond the limit of his ordinary duties ; and beyond the
imposed work of the " nouum opus."

At the bottom of page 67 in the transcript is a paragraph which is
headed by the note, " Custus tegularie noue camere" — the cost of the tiles
for a new chamber.

Concerning this chamber, so many documents have to be brought
into court to establish it in its true position, and to distinguish its origin
and purpose, that it is thought better to relegate the whole subject to
Appendix B which is concerned with the buildings erected while Alan of
Walsingham held an official position in the Monastery.

We may, however, take notice in passing that this camera has a place
given to it in the Chronicler's list of notable buildings erected in Alan's
time ; that its cost was said to have been ^60. 17^. cfed. and that it took
three years in building.

More than half of this expenditure, nearly ^34, is entered against the
work of this year, but nothing in the Roll enables us to determine to
which of the three years this expenditure belongs.

The purchase of fen turves for burning the tiles, which were wall tiles
not roofing tiles, and the baking of them by William Tyler, need not be
taken to indicate more than the provision of a store to be at hand
when they would be required for the building ; while the digging of stone
" for filling," and of sand, with the purchases of chalk or lime, seem to
suggest that the work might have been only in its earlier stages.

John Attegrene, whose name appears here for the first time, although
he is not called a master mason, was apparently in charge of the building
— of Henry Pauag we know nothing — the cost of the masons and others
helping them amounted to ^23. 13^. \id.; Attegrene himself receives a
mark for his robe and one pound for his stipend, a sum which would
represent only 8 or 9 weeks' work unless he had been receiving his board
at the Sacrist's Hall or Hospice.

The roof of this camera is described elsewhere in a contemporary
document as having been of lead, " plumbo tecta." The lead may have
been previously stored in the Sacrist's building yard, or purchased later.

(Roff Qto* x>u 37

One large purchase appears under the " nouum opus " this year (page 72)
and may either have gone into store, or have been used for the roofing of
the space between the upper part of the stone octagon and the uprights of
the wooden octagon for the protection of the framework of timbers which
had been fixed between the two.

The second marginal note in this Roll which is of exceptional character
is on page 68 ; and relates to purchases of lands and tenements at a place
called Brame, an outskirt of Ely. In this we have a brief notice of one of
the most important acts of Alan of Walsingham's career ; which finds
special mention in a long and interesting document which he drew up a
short time before his death, and wherein he declared that the acquisition
of Brame had been secured "by much labour and by very large sums of

It was from the manor of Brame that the hereditary Goldsmiths of Ely
in part drew their official stipend ; and it was evidently through his interest
in that payment that Alan was anxious to get the estate into the hands of
the Prior and Convent. A lengthier account, therefore, of this transaction
will be more conveniently put off to an appendix in which the history and
status of the Goldsmiths will receive more careful attention.

The purchase of Brame is also given by the writers of the Chronicles of
the Bishops in the list of works done " tempore Alani de Walsingham,"
where the purchase money paid for the two parts of Brame agrees in amount
with the entry in the transcript, page 68, ^190. 135. 6d}

In passing on to take up the story of the " nouum opus " after the void
of eight years, the employment of Alan's energies on these two enterprises,
the building of the new camera, and the purchase of Brame, becomes
of extreme importance when we endeavour to estimate the progress which
the Sacrist had made in the erection of the central tower.

It is hardly to be thought that he would have thrown himself into two
undertakings which must seem to us to have been works of supererogation,
unless the special building which had been committed to him by the
Chapter had so far advanced that his responsibility for it had been to a
great extent relieved.

By the witness of the historians of the Monastery six years had elapsed
since the stone octagon had been consummated up to the tabulatum, and
since the timber work had been commenced upon it ; we may, therefore,
consider, assisted by the general trend of Alan's actions recorded in this

l " Perquisitio duarum partium de Brame... scilicet de Walsham et de Baas clxxx.
librae, x. librae, xiij. solidi, vj. denarii." Anglia Sacra, vol. i., p. 644.

38 (Roff QU x>u

Roll, that the most severe and critical parts of the erection of the wooden
octagon would, by this time, have been securely finished.

Our appeal then must be to the text of the sixth Roll, to interrogate it
whether such a priori suggestions find corroboration in the entries of that
important year ; or whether no signs are discernible in it of a very practical
advance having, by that time, been made in the Sacrist's building work.

Unfortunately the scribe in this Roll is more than usually laconic in
his statements under the heading " Custus noui operis " ; he scarcely gives
to it 19 lines of his parchments ; and is altogether silent as to the place in
which, and the work on which, the masons and carpenters were engaged.
A few lines are given to some items evidently copied out of the bills of
the blacksmith; and one whole paragraph is occupied by purchases of
materials for the painters' use. Carpenters and masons are indeed at work
on the Church, for they receive between them the sum of ^41. iox od.;
while a new Magister Carpentarius appears for the first time, William of
Hurle or Hurley, to whom is paid the large fee of £8 for the year. Of
him we shall have to speak further on, but the circumstance which now
attracts us is the painting or decoration just mentioned, for in that we seem
to have an indication of the advance of the Sacrist's building operations on
which we can rely.


The entry runs thus — In iiij libris rubei plumbi empt. pro volta Noui
Campanilis depingenda.

The vault of the new campanile can indeed only mean the great
circular dome, which, rising from the 8 stone columns at a point 62 feet
from the ground, ascended in an arch 30 feet higher, and so formed the
curb of the lesser octagon, through which the eye of one standing on the
floor of the Church passes upwards.

And, of this dome, the portion which would have been first ready
to receive decoration would have been the visible boarding which covered
the lower part of the framework of timbers. "The vaulting ribs of the
apparent dome as seen from below carry none of the weight of the Lantern
and are, indeed, merely an ornamental casing to the radial struts which do
the real work 1 ."

And if this was so, and if the wooden vault was ready to receive
decoration, it is natural to suppose that the heavy timber work which it
concealed must have been already satisfactorily completed; more especially
as the only protection which the inside of the vault could have received
from the rain, must have been the roof which was laid from wooden
octagon to stone octagon, 18 feet above the level of the curb of the great

l Cf. Dean Stubbs, Historical Memorials of Ely Cathedral, p. 149.

(Roff Qto. X>U 39

dome. And until the great angle posts had been set up in their order all
round the octagon to provide the supports for the roof rafters, there would
be nothing to prevent the water from descending in floods on the inner
side of the painted boards, and settling in the lowest narrow points, we
may call them pockets, of the enclosed woodwork.

For these simple reasons, an ordinary intelligence would conclude that
the chief timbers of the Lantern, even up to the level of the roofing rafters,
would have been fixed before the painting of the vault of the Lantern
would have been taken in hand.

And it would not indeed have been thought necessary to labour this
point further, if it had not been that a well known and esteemed writer, in
his work on the Architectural History of Ely Cathedral, in commenting on
another entry in the accounts of the office of the Sacristy in this same
Roll, suggested an interpretation of it which runs counter to what has been
here advanced 1 .

The entry on which his conclusion appears to have been formed, is to
be found on page 65 in the transcript, and may be thus rendered in
English :

" Marginal note : Expenses of the house [of the Sacrist]. Mem, That
8 carpenters were boarded with the servants of the Lord [Sacrist] through
nine weeks for the exaltation, or raising, of great posts in the new choir."

The comment in the Architectural History on these words is: "The
great posts are no doubt the great angle posts of the wooden octagon."

Notwithstanding the apparent security of this decision, and with all
consideration for the good faith of the writer, some doubt must, in the
cause of truth, be permitted, whether the comment really represents with
fairness the written entry.

The words of the scribe are, "pro magnis postibus exaltandis," a very
vague expression, defining neither the number nor the character of the posts.

The deduction, that the posts must be the great angle posts of the
wooden octagon, that is 8 in number, is certainly open to doubt.

The carpenters in question were indeed 8 ; but how, or by what
reasoning the posts became 8 also, we know not ; was it that the 8 was
by an act of unconscious cerebration passed on to the timbers ? or had the
writer in his own mind any distinct ground for his assertion? Unfortun-
ately Canon Stewart did not enter into any explanation of the reasons on
which he founded his judgment. And the mere assertion that the "great
posts " must have been eight in number, and that they must have been of
one particular character — " angle posts " — cannot carry conviction. Very

1 See "On the Architectural History of Ely Cathedral," by Rev. D. J. Stewart,
Hon. Canon of Ely, p. 99.

4o (goff Qto. vu

many great posts must have been carried up before the wooden octagon
could have arrived at completion ; yes, and even for a long time after the
angle timbers had been set in their places.

The wood required even for the upper stages above the stone octagon,
must have been considerable. The diameter of the Lantern inside was
30 feet; the circuit of its 8 sides more than 160 feet; the angle posts, for
which many strong beams would be needed to bind them all together,
rose 50 feet beyond the roof which was to protect the great dome from
the rain ; while a roof had to be constructed for the second vaulting ; a
floor above for the belfry ; and yet more roof rafters to receive the leaden
covering. It is unnecessary, therefore, and scarcely reasonable, to run to
the conclusion that " the posts were no doubt the great angle posts."

It is to be remarked further that in the Architectural History of Ely
Cathedral no suggestion is offered as to what the Sacrist's workmen could
have been doing for the first five years, if in the sixth year of the building
of the wooden structure they were only just taking in hand the elevation
of the corner pillars of the Lantern.

On this point probably even professional experts would be unwilling to
express a decided judgment ; and those who are not experts may well be
shy of entering on a ground where angels fear to tread.

It may be well, however, to record an opinion which has been very
generally accepted, that the original system of the construction of the
framework of the wooden octagon was far less complicated than it now
appears to be after the many alterations and additions it has received.

The honour and glory of the stone octagon comes mainly from the
mingled simplicity and grandeur of the thought which gave birth to a
creation of great originality, "standing," as Sir Gilbert Scott expressed
it, " alone in its design among English medieval structures. Instead of
rebuilding the four great piers of the central tower he [Alan] wholly
removed them, and stepping back one bay in every direction he adopted
the eight next pillars as the points of support for his new tower."

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