Chapter II
Plasterers in the Royal Works

The accounts of the Royal Works throw light on two aspects of the plastering trade in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In the first place, much information can be gained as to the personnel involved and the extent to which the plasterers who worked at royal sites were drawn from the ranks of the London Plasterers’ Company. Secondly, there is some evidence that elucidates the working conditions of plasterers in the Royal Works. As was the case with the study of materials used by plasterers, the kinds of information provided by the particular books and the summary accounts are rather different.

In the particular books the clerks listed the names of all the workmen employed at each site, occasionally providing details of the work on which they were engaged. As most of the surviving examples date from before 1547, they provide evidence of working practices and the workmen involved from the period before the annual accounts become at all detailed.

The workforce

The earliest entries of this kind occur in accounts that do not, strictly speaking, belong with the royal documents at all but have been bound up with them, relating to Cardinal Wolsey’s buildings at Hampton Court in 1514[1] and at York Place (renamed Whitehall by Henry VIII) in 1515.[2] The names of the four plasterers working at Hampton Court do not appear in any other documents and it would therefore be idle to speculate whether they were Londoners or not. At York Place, however, seven plasterers are named, three of whom appear again later at royal sites: Patrick Hiney, Laurence Sarswell and John Thurston. The employment of the same artisans by royal and courtly patrons is a topic which recurs throughout the period and it must have provided one of the most important avenues for the dissemination of new ideas in interior decoration within the courtly circle.

Although the original records of the London Plasterers’ Company do not extend farther back than 1570, a transcript made in the nineteenth century of extracts from court minute books dated between 1522 and 1525 provides evidence of the membership of the company at that date.[3] The names which appear in this transcript include those of the three men who worked for both Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII, demonstrating that they were also members of the London company. John Thurston was the man entrusted with most of the work at York Place, and it was he who supplied the white plaster and timber laths, and loaned scaffolds, pails and other necessities, all of which were transported from London and back again. In 1538 he was among the suppliers of plaster to Hampton Court, when he is described as ‘of London, plasterer’.[4] By this date he was no longer listed among the workmen, but he had been engaged at Hampton Court in 1529-30 and at Whitehall in 1530-32, when he was the senior plasterer employed, receiving 8d per day instead of the regular 7d of his fellows. He is also on occasion listed at ‘Mr’, but whether this reflected his position within the London company or simply his seniority within the Royal Works is not certain.

Patrick Hiney’s recorded employment within the Royal Works is limited to entries for Hampton Court between May 1531 and December 1532, when he was employed both as a plasterer at 7d per day and as a ‘gager’ (or plasterer’s labourer) at 5d per day. The plasterers’ work is not described in detail which makes it impossible to know on which part of the palace he was working.

Laurence Sarswell must already have been a leading member of the London company by 1525 since he is listed as one of the Assistants. Within the Royal Works his name is included among the plasterers working at Hampton Court, Sonning and Whitehall between 1530 and 1532 for 7d per day. Sarswell was working alongside other members of the company and, like them, seems to have shuttled between the different sites as his services were required.

Alexander Hatton’s name is listed only at York Place, but this was probably because he had died before the date of the earliest Royal Works’ entries. He, too, was listed as an Assistant and had therefore reached a position of seniority within the London company. Reference to his widow, Agnes, indicates that Hatton must have died prior to September 1525.

To try to assess the relationship between the Royal Works and the London Plasterers’ Company in the sixteenth century, a database was compiled of all the names of men listed as plasterers in the particular books, the earliest of which covers work at Tickenhill, Worcestershire, in 1526. The majority of the surviving books which name plasterers cover work at Henry VIII’s major palaces during the period 1529-44. From Elizabeth’s reign, pay-books which supplement the summary accounts are extant for Whitehall in 1559, Collyweston and Fotheringhay in 1565-66, various palaces in 1567-69 and Chester Castle in 1578-82.

Using this database it is possible to establish that a very large number of plasterers working in the Royal Works were members of the London Plasterers’ Company. For the years of Henry VIII’s reign the evidence of company membership from 1522-25 can be supplemented by two surviving portions of the register of admissions to the freedom of the City of London from the middle years of the sixteenth century.[5] There is some overlap between the Elizabethan particular books and the records of the Plasterers’ Company, but because the latter records are so fragmentary for the period before 1570, it is inevitable that some names of company members will have gone unrecognised.

Nevertheless, despite the gaps in the available evidence it is remarkable how many members of the London company can be identified in the surviving pay-books. Eighty-two names are listed in the extracts from the Plasterers’ Company records of 1522-25, of whom forty-one (50%) can certainly be identified with plasterers employed in the Royal Works to a greater or lesser degree. The register of freedoms of the City of London supplies the names of nine plasterers, eight of whom had worked for the king (89%). When Henry VIII embarked on major building projects the London company must have been in a position to supply a large body of trained men who made up the backbone of the plastering workforce.

The presence of London plasterers at various sites seems to have been affected by two considerations – the scale of the building project and its distance from London. For example, at Tickenhill Manor (one of the seats of the Council in the Marches of Wales), repairs were being carried out in 1526,[6] which might have been expected to involve some of the men whose names were recorded in the Plasterers’ Company records of 1522-25. Tickenhill was, however, the site farthest from London at which named plasterers were recorded and there appear to have been no members of the London company among the sixteen men working there. The project seems to have been too small-scale to warrant dispatching plasterers from London and there must have been sufficient plastering skill available locally to carry out the necessary work. It may also be relevant that this refurbishment was carried out in readiness for the arrival of Princess Mary, rather than the king himself.[7]

By contrast, Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to Ampthill, Bedfordshire,[8] and repairs and redecoration involving plasterers were undertaken on four occasions in the 1530s and 1540s. The number of plasterers concerned was still quite small, ranging between one in 1533 and nine in 1536-37.[9] Most of the men worked at no other site for the king and were only paid 7d or 6d per day. John Butcher (or Bochere) ws the one member of this group who was present on all four occasions and the likelihood that he and the other men of the group represented a local labour force is increased by the appearance on site in 1536-37 of Robert Bowdelle. This London company member seems to have been sent to Ampthill to supervise the plastering work there, to judge by his wages which were paid at the higher rate of 8d per day. Two other plasterers were paid at the same rate in 1536-37, William Bowdelle and Arnold Brownell. William Bowdelle was a member of the London company who was elected to serve as one of the wardens in 1545; [10] Arnold Brownell probably accompanied the Bowdelles from London, but there is no documentary evidence to confirm his company membership.[11]

A similar situation seems to have prevailed at Dover Castle, a site even further from London than Ampthill, when fourteen plasterers were working there between April and July 1536.[12] At the outset, a team of seven men was led by two members of the London company: William Elder at 9d per day and John Johnson at 8d per day. The rest of the team consisted of one other London member and three plasterers who worked at other royal sites and were probably also Londoners. In the following three months much the same kind of work (whiting, plastering and yellow ochre-ing) was carried out by a new group of seven plasterers, six of whose names do not occur again in the royal accounts. Here again the pattern seems to emerge of Londoners in control, demonstrating what was required and then leaving it to local workmen to complete the plastering work.

When it came to Henry VIII’s large-scale projects, such as Whitehall and Hampton Court in the 1530s, or Dartford in the 1540s, the pattern varied depending on the location. Vast numbers of plasterers were required at these sites, working at high speed to complete the task for an impatient monarch. For Whitehall, the plasterers would naturally be drawn from London, and for Hampton Court, too, there was no other obvious pool of labour available. As a result, if one takes as a sample those twenty-seven men who were working there in 1537 (from the list over two hundred plasterers employed at Hampton Court between 1529 and 1539), fifteen Londoners were listed, seven men worked at several other sites and were probably Londoners, and only five worked only at Hampton Court. At Dartford, however, a much higher percentage of local labour must have been available since nearly half (twenty-three) of the fifty-three plasterers employed there from 1542-44 are not recorded elsewhere in royal employment, only thirteen were certainly Londoners, and seventeen possibly came from the capital.

Similar patterns of employment emerge from the particular books which survive from Elizabeth’s reign. At Whitehall in 1559 only four plasterers were needed for plastering and blacking the tennis courts;[13] three of them certainly (and the fourth, presumably) were London company members. Chester, on the other hand, was a city capable of sustaining its own supply of building craftsmen and one local man carried out the whiteliming of the hall of the Castle in 1578-79, while another was responsible for similar work in 1581-82.[14]

When plasterers were required to work in the queen’s lodgings at Collyweston, Northamptonshire, however, the work appears to have been divided between local men and Londoners. The basic repair work was entrusted to three local men and their apprentices between March and May 1566. In June of that year they were replaced by a Londoner, John Leycocke, and his apprentice, who were paid at the same rates to plaster the new ‘bankett hows’.[15] Leycocke had already been working nearby at Fotheringhay Castle, together with another Londoner, Richard Brigges, and their apprentices, from March – May 1566, where they had been plastering the great chamber in anticipation of a visit by the queen.[16] Brigges and Leycocke were both men who rose to prominence in the London company, and it would appear that their technical skills were deployed on new plastering, particularly in high-status areas, within the two buildings, while local men were recruited for the more mundane repair work.

For plastering work in the palaces nearer to London the Royal Works continued to rely heavily on members of the Plasterers’ Company: for example, between 1567 and 1569 the company supplied at least thirteen of the twenty-six men at Greenwich;[17] nine of out the eleven men at Eltham;[18] and three out of the four men at Reading.[19]

In most cases, therefore, the London Plasterers’ Company made a significant contribution to the plastering of royal palaces and manor houses, even at considerable distances from the City. At the smaller-scale sites the Londoners seem to have acted in a supervisory role, setting the pattern of work and then moving on; when a larger project was under way, they were inevitably required to stay longer, in greater numbers, depending on the availability of local plasterers to swell the workforce.

The scarcity of documentary evidence for plasterers working outside the Royal Works makes it more difficult to assess whether the exposure of large numbers of London plasterers to the latest styles of decoration in Henry VIII’s palaces made any impact on their own practice. Plasterers are so rarely named in building accounts of this period that it is impossible to be certain who were the men responsible for the conversion of the timber and plaster ceilings decorated for Wolsey and Henry VIII into the entirely plaster ceilings which began to appear in the interiors of houses of courtiers, the wealthiest Londoners and, gradually, those lower down the social scale.

There is, however, one piece of evidence which bears witness to the links which could be established with leading courtiers by London plasterers engaged in the Royal Works. When Sir John Thynne was converting monastic buildings into his first house at Longleat in 1546-49 he was frequently forced to be away from the site and had to direct operations from London and France by way of memoranda sent to his steward, John Dodd.[20] One of Thynne’s major problems was the recruitment of craftsmen; and having once found men they had to be protected from impressment into the Royal Works and discouraged from absenting themselves from Longleat. Girouard’s statement that Thynne engaged plasterers from London is confirmed by one of Dodd’s letters. In the summer of 1547, following some delay in the delivery of plaster, the unnamed plasterer was working in the hall in June. By July the plasterer’s man and two labourers had finished the hall and moved on to the parlour, gallery and staircase, but ‘as for boyedell him selfe we take him to be at london’.[21] It would appear that Thynne had persuaded either Robert or William Bowdelle (the members of the Plasterers’ Company previously mentioned in connection with Ampthill) to travel to Longleat but was powerless to prevent the Londoner from returning home at the earliest opportunity.

There are far fewer particular books surviving from the period after the reformation of accounting procedures in the Royal Works carried out by Lawrence Bradshaw, the Surveyor, in 1547. After that date those employed on routine plastering work were lumped anonymously together in the summary accounts under the heading ‘Plasterers’. They are listed at most sites as recipients of daily wages, at varying rates, but the nature of their employment can only partially be pieced together from the Prelims. describing the building work undertaken at each site during the period of the account.

The only plasterers to emerge from the anonymity of the group are those who are identified as being engaged on ‘task-work’ (or piece-work), with the obvious exception of the royal Master Plasterer. The presence of the holder of that office at a particular site is usually indicated by the payment of travelling expenses, whether or not he was engaged on task-work. Patrick Kellie was the first such plasterer to be so named, when he was working at Enfield and New Hall in 1559,[22] following his appointment as Master Plasterer to the Crown in 1555. The careers of Patrick Kellie and his successors will be discussed in the subsequent chapter of this study.

During the period covered by the summary accounts (1547-1649) there are 139 entries for plastering task-work by named craftsmen, occurring in the years between 1567 and 1649. Out of the total, only 19 task-work entries relate to decorative work – fretwork ceilings, friezes or coats-of-arms – which all occurred in the period 1582-1640. It would be a mistake to imagine that this reflected a two-tier division of labour in the plastering trade. If someone was engaged as a plasterer then he carried out plain as well as decorative work, albeit with the assistance of less skilled apprentices and journeymen; and this is as true of the Master Plasterer as of all other employees in the Royal Works.

The task-work entries relate to work carried out by forty-six separate plasterers who are named in the Royal Works’ accounts during the period; their names are listed in Table 1, overleaf.

An extremely high proportion of them were drawn from the ranks of the London Plasterers’ Company, even when the royal Master Plasterer was not one of their number, as was the case during the tenure of James Leigh. At least thirty-one of the forty-six were company members, and two further names can probably be included in this group. John Adams is likely to have been a member whose name does not appear in the less than

Table 1.      Plasterers engaged on task-work in the Royal Works 1547-1649

  Adams,                      John

*Allen,                         John

*Atkinson,                   Thomas

*Barfeilde,                   Richard

*Barrett,                      Matthew

  Benson,                     Robert

*Brigges,                      Henry

*Browne,                     John

*Browne,                     Richard

*Browne,                     Robert

*Browne,                     Thomas

  Burrowes,                  Robert

  Burton,                      John

*Cocke,                        Romane

*Dillon,                        Edmond

*Dungan,                    Richard (Master)

*Eastbourne,               Martin

*Effe,                           Page

  Field,                          Daniel

  Hearne,                     William

*Hollins,                      William

*Jackson,                     Amos

  Jackson,                     William

*Johnson,                    Ellis

*Kellie,                        Patrick (Master)

*Kellie,                         Thomas (Master)

*Kifflyn,                       James

*Kinsman,                   Joseph

  Lee,                            Abraham

  Leigh/Lee,                 James (Master)

*Lee,                            John

*Morley,                          Roger

  Nottingham,                 Robert

  Pearson,                        William

*Phelps,                           Raphe

*Pritchett,                       John

*Roades,                         Kelham

  Rutland,                       John

*Shambrooke,                John

*Stanley,                        Henry

  Stanley,                       John

  Stephenson,                William

*Talbott,                        Richard (Master)

  Terry,                          Henry

            *Walter,                        John

            *Willingham,                William


* Members of the London Company of Plasterers.

complete company records of the 1590s, since he was working in partnership with Richard Barfeilde, a senior member of the company, at Hampton Court in 1591-92. It may even be the case that clerkly error is responsible for altering Adams’ Christian name, as there are numerous other members of the Adams family listed as members of the Plasterers’ Company who could have partnered Richard Barfeilde. A similar error probably lies behind another name on the list. John Stanley is recorded working at the Tower of London in 1611-12,[23] but there is no London company plasterer of that name; there is, however, a Henry Stanley, a senior figure within the company, who was plastering at the Tower in 1609-10,[24] which would seem to make him a highly plausible candidate for the later task-work entry.

These figures demonstrate that about 70% of the plasterers engaged on task-work at royal sites were members of the London Plasterers’ Company. Once decorative plasterwork began to play a part in royal interiors (from the 1580s onwards) these plasterers, and the men who trained and worked with them, would have been in a position to transmit current courtly fashions in plasterwork to the house of patrons in the City. In addition, the opportunity to work at court meant that they were the men whose work was best placed to attract the attention and patronage of courtiers. The implications of this interchange between court and City for the development of decorative plasterwork will be examined more fully in the final chapters of this study.

It remains to examine the circumstances of the employment of the thirteen men engaged on plastering task-work who did not belong to the Plasterers’ Company, to discover what prevented the members of the London company from exercising a total monopoly within the Royal Works.

The case of James Leigh, the only royal Master Plasterer who was not a member of the London company, will be discussed below in the section of this chapter devoted to the men who held the office of Master Plasterer in the Royal Works.

Although ‘Leigh’ was the form adopted in The History of the King’s Works III and IV for the Master Plasterer’s surname, it is just as frequently found in the versions ‘Lee’ or ‘Lea’. The published spelling has been adopted for this study, but it is not a form which is ever used for Abraham Lee, who appears to have been related to James Leigh. Abraham Lee was a plasterer whose skills extended beyond the basic level of competence required for the general plastering work he carried out between 1616 and 1620: in the Mews’ Riding House in 1616-17[25] and in the Prince’s Lodging at St James’s Palace in 1618-20, where he is recorded as working in partnership with Richard Talbott.[26] In 1618-19 he was also responsible for ‘a frett Celing in the Princes Closett containing XXXv yardes di flatt measure at iiijs the yard’, [27] and it is this entry which leads to the speculation that Abraham may have been the son of James Leigh. This was the sole occasion on which decorative plasterwork was executed by someone other than the Master Plasterer.[28]

James and Abraham Leigh/Lee were also associated in plastering work at the Charterhouse, for which records survive covering the years 1613-14.[29] The names of thirty-six plasterers are recorded, of which twenty-eight appear in the records of the London Plasterers’ Company.[30] Of the eight who do not appear in the Company records, three were members of the Leigh/Lee family: James I, the Royal Plasterer, Abraham I and another James III. For most of the period Abraham Lee was working on routine plastering tasks at a daily rate of 2s, alongside members of the London Plasterers’ Company who were paid 2s or 18d per day; the second James Lee III received only 18d.[31] There are, additionally, entries in the 9th, 10th and 12th particular books which record payments of 40s, 30s and 40s to Abraham Lee ‘in prest for the kings armes & Governors Armes in the Schoole ceeling’. An entry in the 18th book makes it clear that in this decorative work he must have been associated with James Leigh I. A final payment was made to the latter, ‘the kings Plaisterer in full payment of Xli for the kings Armes and Governors Armes with Compartments aboute them in the Schoolehouse’. These entries would seem to increase the likelihood that the two men were related as father and son.

Abraham Lee had two sons, both born at Richmond, Surrey; Abraham II in 1624 and James II in 1626.[32] Abraham I and his son James II worked together at St James’s Palace in 1644.[33] James II, aged 17 years, would have been the right age to be working as his father’s apprentice, or ‘labourer’ as he is described in the paybook. Although neither James I nor Abraham I had been members of the London company, Abraham’s son, James II, was apprenticed to Thomas Wright on 19th May 1647, when his father, Abraham, was described as ‘of Richmond, Surrey, Plaisterer’.[34] James II would have been twenty and therefore still a minor. (The fact that this son was also called James makes one additionally inclined to accept Abraham I as the son of James I, the royal Master Plasterer.) It is interesting that in 1647Abraham I should have thought it desirable that his own son should acquire the freedom of the City.[35] Perhaps the father felt his son’s employment prospects would be enhanced if he served an apprenticeship within the Plasterers’ Company.

Seven of the remaining men who did not belong to the London Plasterers’ Company form a group of craftsmen who were probably not primarily plasterers. During the endless demarcation disputes between the companies of Plasterers on the one hand the Tylers & Bricklayers on the other,[36] reference was frequently made to the original order issued by the Court of Aldermen in 1579, and confirmed on numerous occasions thereafter, which specifically excluded ‘the Queen’s majesty’s work’ from its rulings.[37] It comes as no surprise, therefore, to find that plastering work at royal sites was sometimes executed by craftsmen other than plasterers, their place usually being taken by bricklayers and tilers. For example, two tilers were employed at Bishops Hatfield on ‘Tyling and plasteringe’ in 1578-79.[38] Hair was also mentioned quite specifically as one of the materials used by bricklayers, mixed with lime, on several occasions, including Royston (1610-11) and Theobalds (1622-23).[39]

From the list of men engaged on plastering task-work, seven can be fairly certainly identified as bricklayers/tilers, and were even described as such on occasion. They were Robert Benson, Robert Burrowes, Robert Nottingham, John Burton, William Hearne,[40] John Rutland and William Stephenson.[41]

This list of men who could turn their hands to a variety of work involving the use of plaster demonstrates that they took full advantage of the exemption of the Royal Works from the rulings issued by the Court of Aldermen. The experience they were able to gain within the Royal Works must have made it even more difficult to prevent them crossing the demarcation boundaries laid down between bricklayers and plasterers when they were working for non-royal clients.[42]

The plasterers who were working at Woodstock in 1593-95 do not fall into the groups so far discussed. Two plasterers were involved: one, Henry Terry, was busy with external plastering; the other, William Pearson, together with his men, was creating decorative plaster ceilings inside the building. Neither Terry nor Pearson appears to have belonged to the London company, although the Terry family supplied prominent members of the company over several generations, and a John Pearson was a Master of the Bricklayers’ Company in 1596-97.[43] William Pearson, however, had connections with Oxford (details are contained in Appendix A). According to Sir Henry Lee’s account of expenditure for 1593-95, Pearson was paid ‘for the plastering of the Privie Chamber with Frettwoorke’ and ‘To him & his fellowes for making twoe new Fretts over the greate Staires leading vnto the Chamber of Presence’.[44] Throughout this period the execution of decorative plasterwork was almost exclusively reserved for the royal Master Plasterer of the day. At this date, however, the post was held as a sinecure by John Symonds, who was not a plasterer but a joiner, and consequently other plasterers, like Pearson, had to be employed to substitute for him.

It has not proved possible to identify he two men engaged on plastering task-work who have not so far been discussed: Danyell Feilde, who was plastering partition walls at Theobalds in 1619-20;[45] and William Jackson, the plasterer employed at Denmark (Somerset) House in 1632-33.[46] Both men have surnames in common with other London company members. There are four men named ‘Field’, but they are all unrelated. William Jackson shares a surname with twelve members of the company, not all related, but it is such a common name that it would be rash to assume that clerkly error was responsible for mistakenly recording his Christian name.

Mention must also be made of the two London plasterers who were dispatched to Scotland when Edinburgh Castle was undergoing refurbishment in readiness for James I’s visit to his Scottish capital in 1617. The accounts of the Master of Works indicate that two decorative plaster ceilings were created in the wing of the palace which was newly-built for the occasion.[47] Two of the men involved were Richard Cobb (a member of the Livery since 1598) and Robert Whitehead (freed from his apprenticeship in 1615), both members of the London company but whose names do not appear among the plasterers paid for task-work in the Royal Works south of the Border. One might have expected the royal Master Plasterer, James Leigh, to have taken charge of a project which the king viewed as highly important.[48] There is a gap in the list of Leigh’s task-work between Greenwich (1615-16) and Oatlands (1617-18) but there is no evidence that he travelled to Edinburgh in the interim.

One further London plasterer who should be included in this section is Paul Sleigh. In 1610 Prince Henry was given his own household, with Inigo Jones as his Surveyor of Works, and within this organisation his Plasterer was Paul Sleigh. He had served a seven-year apprenticeship from 1594-1601 (and was therefore presumably born c.1580). He must have been a man of some substance as, having paid his beadleship fine in 1602, he was able to donate a gilt spoon to the company later that year. In 1604 he entered the Livery and his first apprentice was enrolled in 1606. It is not known what kind of plastering, if any, he carried out for Prince Henry; but that he continued in his household until the prince’s death in 1612 is borne out by his inclusion on the list of artificers who received mourning cloth.[49]

Following the prince’s death, Sleigh does not appear to have accompanied Inigo Jones into the King’s Works. James Leigh was presumably providing the kind of work which appealed to the king and queen and Richard Talbott was waiting in the wings, having been granted the reversion of the post of Royal Master Plasterer. Sleigh returned to the bosom of the London company and became Junior Warden in 1614 and Senior Warden in 1617. He enrolled a further five apprentices and would no doubt have gone on to pursue a successful career and become Master of the company, had not death intervened in 1619 when he would only have been about thirty-nine years old.

This analysis of the plasterers employed in the Royal Works has been undertaken to demonstrate the extent of the reliance on the London Plasterers’ Company for the workforce, both skilled and semi-skilled. Because employment at court could lead to patronage from courtiers, it further highlights the existence of a channel whereby fashions in interior decoration, whether from royal palaces or courtier houses, could be transmitted by craftsmen to the houses of the wealthier members of London society who wished to keep abreast of the latest trends in fashionable decor.

Working practices

When the building records relating to the Royal Works are examined in order to gain an understanding of the working conditions of the plasterers employed, it is clear that the particular books from the first half of the sixteenth century are much more informative than the summary accounts of the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. There is very little overlap in date between the particular books and the records of the Plasterers’ Company, which means that the evidence of one cannot be directly corroborated by the other. However, taken together, the two sources provide sufficiently similar information for some continuity to be assumed in the working practices of the Royal Works. The picture thus obtained of working conditions at royal sites will complement the study made by Malcolm Airs of the situation obtaining at country house building sites during roughly the same period.[50]


Whenever an especially large royal building project was under way the need for a vast force of skilled workmen arose. With an impatient monarch like Henry VIII as patron, speed became paramount and impressment was used to bring the necessary skills to the royal building site over considerable distances.[51] In 1531 a major programme of construction and decoration was about to be undertaken at Whitehall and the paymasters, Heritage (also surveyor of works) and Alvard, were given permission to impress the men needed, including plasterers and daubers.[52] This is subsequently reflected in two entries taken from the surviving accounts: Thomas Swalowe, the King’s messenger, was paid 12d per day ‘for riding to different parts of the realm to take artificers for the buildings’.[53] Shortly afterwards another entry records the travelling expenses allowed to ‘euerye Rough laier and brickelaier takyn by the kinges comyssion’ at the rate of 6d for every 20 miles distance from their homes.[54]

Roughlayers, masons and carpenters were required in such numbrs that London alone could not possibly supply sufficient manpower. By comparison, relatively few plasterrs were needed at any one time[55] and it is likely that they were mainly recruited in the capital. A reward of 12d was paid in 1530 ‘to a Sargeaunte of london for taking up of Bricklayers Tylers and other Artificeres by the kinges Commyssion to serve his grace in his buyldinge aforsaide’ and the plasterers were probably included among ‘other Artificeres’.[56] That the London companies were expected to assist the Royal Works with recruitment within the London area is confirmed by payments in relation to work at Whitehall in 1563-64: ‘Rewards to the Masters and wardens of the companys of Carpenters xs and Brickelayers vjs viijd for theyre paines in taking and presting of woorkemen’.[57]

Since the Court minute books of the Plasterers’ Company only survive from 1570 it is impossible to assess how willingly the plasterers went to work for their sovereign in the sixteenth century. With the increased level of building activity under James I in the early seventeenth century, however, impressment was to prove a source of friction within the company on more than one occasion. In October 1607 Edward Stanyon[58] was one of the instigators of a move by the ‘young men’ of the company to obtain fairer treatment from the Master and wardens; among the list of their grievances was the selection of plasterers for the king’s service. Their efforts to obtain redress through the Court of Aldermen were rewarded the following February with a report upholding their complaints, accompanied by a detailed prescription for the running of the company on fairer lines. In future the young men were only to be pressed for the king’s works as necessity required, and without malice, favour or reward, everyone ‘in their turnes indifferentlye’, and the young men were even to be paid compensation.[59]

This was not, however, to prove the last word on the matter. In 1610 the company paid ‘An officer for sending men to the Compter whoe refused to goe to the kings workes’.[60] The Compter proved an insufficient disincentive and in September 1611 the Master and Wardens required the presence of ‘the Lo: Mayors officer for going with the Mr & wardens abut takeing men to goe to worke for the kinges Majestie at Royston’.[61] Even this precaution could not be guaranteed t cow the unwilling plasterers into submission, as evidenced by the following entries a few years later,

            ‘Pd the 20th of March, 1613/14 to an officer who went with us when

we went to charge men for the Kinges Workes

Item pd then for an order at my lo:Maiors to punishe them which

                refuse to goe to the kings workes   xijd’.[62]

The continuing programme of building works at Royston required further action by the Company in 1615 when money was ‘Spent in sendinge men to Royston into the King’s Works’.[63] In 1625 a more general warning was issued to ‘some of the companie to worke in the kinges & in the companies affaires’.[64] The plasterers were, of course, not alone in their reluctance to serve their king in this manner and the King’s Marshal’s man was rewarded with a payment of £8 ‘for apprehendinge of such persons as obstinately refused to come into his Majesty’s woorkes’ at Hampton Court in 1627-28.[65]

Once the craftsmen had been recruited for the Royal Works the problems for the surveyor were not over. Defections must have been quite common, as is suggested by the repeated demands for plasterers to go to Royston and is made explicit by the employment of two men at the lodge in Bagshot Part in 1631-32 to ensure that the impressed men fulfilled their obligations in the king’s works.[66] Clearly, for the ordinary freemen of the company, “volunteering” for a spell of duty for the Crown was not an attractive proposition. Several factors probably contributed to their reluctance; the pattern of employment which emerges from the particular books suggests what some of these factors may have been.

Before identifying specific problems which may have served to discourage London plasterers from working for their monarch, one general point needs to be made. The pattern of employment that resulted from the guild framework operating within the City was that of a small business, run by an independent craftsman. On entering the Royal Works, that independence was lost and a plasterer became one of a team, working beneath a supervisor. Most of the London company men must have found this irksome and for the ambitious young man it clearly represented an unnecessary obstacle to the pursuit of his own career. Against this background several additional factors must have served to reinforce the reluctance to enter the Royal Works, which was so vigorously and repeatedly expressed.

It is difficult to assess whether the distances that plasterers were required to travel to royal sites acted as a major disincentive or not, as there was a compensatory factor. Impressed men received a payment according to the distance of a site from their home so they were not necessarily out of pocket as a result. There must have been some inconvenience involved in leaving home and family for a considerable time but that was something which also faced plasterers who worked outside London on their own account, which they must have been prepared to accept.

Moreover, defections took place from sites in London as well as those far from the City, which suggests that distance on its own was not a crucial factor. For example, in September 1620 a warrant was issued to Thomas Bonde, one of the messengers of his Majesty’s Chamber, to bring before the Privy Council workers who had defected from the Banqueting House at Whitehall.[67] The two plasterers named in the bond were John Morphew (Murphy) and Henry Chippinge. Summerson surmised that these defectors were journeymen,[68] but while this was true of Chippinge, who had completed his apprenticeship only the year before, Murphy was already a householder with an apprentice of is own. Presumably these two plasterers were typical of the ambitious young men who resented the interruption of their own careers for the sake of a royal building project.

Hours of work and overtime

Another factor contributing to their reluctance may have been the extraordinarily long hours that were occasionally demanded of the workmen. The normal working day began in summer at 5 am and lasted until 7 or 8 pm, with breaks of half an hour for breakfast, one hour for dinner and half an hour for drinking.[69] During some of Henry VIII’s megalomaniac building campaigns, however, plasterers were among the many workmen who were expected to work during their rest periods (‘howre tymes and drinking times’) and at night, by candlelight, at the same rates as they normally received. This must surely have led to grumbling, if not outright defections.[70] Under Elizabeth the same sense of urgency is apparent on occasions, which accounts for the exceptional amount of overtime worked by plasterers at Greenwich in January 1567/8.[71] The necessity to work overtime, although adding to the arduousness of the employment, would also have increased the workman’s daily income, and this advantage may have compensated for the discomfort resulting from loss of rest periods.

It has to be remembered that the men were only paid for the days on which they actually worked, and it must have been extremely difficult to find work locally, outside, London, which keep them fully occupied when they were not required at the royal site. Even when they were working at palaces relatively close to London the difficulties of travel would have made it almost impossible to maintain their professional careers in the City. The employment record of John Thurston at Hampton Court in the summer and autumn of 1529 illustrates this point.[72] Thurston was employed as senior plasterer earning 8d per day, but the actual number of working days for which he was paid was only 52 out of a possible total of 111 (46.8%) and these were not all consecutive:

            25 July - 7 August                     2 days

             8 - 21 August                         -

            22 August - 4 September        11 days

             5 – 18 September                     9 days

            19 September – 2 October      12 days

             3 - 16 October                          8 days

            17 - 30 October                         7 days

            31 October – 13 November      3 days

However, this may not have represented such an unsatisfactory rate of employment as at first sight might appear. The shortage of evidence from non-royal sites makes comparison difficult but it may be that the security of long-term employment for the king, even if not full-time, was an attraction for some men, and the evidence of the database of plasterers’ names indicates that many of them spent much of their working lives at Henry VIII’s palaces.

Patterns of employment

The careers of the men who remained for some years in royal employment followed one of two patterns: either they remained at the same site for a considerable period, or they were constantly on the move from site to site. Richard Kyrry falls into the first category, working at Hampton Court between 1529 and 1533 (with a short excursion to Hanworth in 1532). Such continuity in one place was only likely to occur when a major building project, such as Hampton Court, was under way. Even so, Kyrry was only paid for 168½ days out of a possible 356 (47.3%) between 1st January and 22nd December 1532.[73]

The alternative pattern, and the more usual of the two, involved the plasterers in a peripatetic existence, moving from one site to another as they were needed. The compensation for this nomadic life must have been the continuity of employment that building projects on such a vast scale offered. For instance, after working as part of the large team at Canterbury for part of the autumn of 1539, seven men moved straight on to Greenwich in December of that year.[74] In order to amplify this further it would be possible to reconstruct the careers within the Royal Works of many of the London plasterers, but one example will suffice to demonstrate the point and the employment record of William Elder at royal sites during 1536 has been selected for this purpose. Elder was one of the senior plasterers, earning the top rate paid to plasterers of 9d per day, and in his supervisory capacity he no doubt expected to be continually on the move. Such was indeed the case between February and October of that year, when he worked a total of 94 days and 3 nights out of a possible total of about 200 days. His route took him from Greenwich (23 days), to the Tower of London (19 days), back to Greenwich (9 days), down to Dover Castle (13 days), to Richmond (9 days and 3 nights), to Chobham (10 days), to Westminster (5 days), and back to Richmond (6 days). His only respite was the period of two months between mid-May to mid-July when he must have hoped to work on his own account to supplement his income from the Royal Works of £3 15s 8d. Elder was, indeed, a successful plasterer who was sufficiently prosperous to donate to the London Plasterers’ Company the lease of their first hall in Addle Street in 1545.[75] In Elder’s case, working for the king between 1532 and 1543 must have made a positive contribution to is professional career rather than proving a hindrance to his financial success.

The possibility of this kind of long-term security of employment in the Royal Works could, of course, only last as long as the monarch continued to build on a lavish scale. One has to wonder whether all the London plasterers employed by Henry VIII would have been able to find work on their own account when the spate of royal building dwindled during the reigns of his children.

Rates of pay

Paucity of evidence makes it very difficult to determine whether the wages paid to plasterers inside the Royal Works matched the rates prevailing in London and neighbouring counties.[76] It is, moreover, probable that the wage-rates paid by the Royal Works were a less significant factor among the causes of disaffection than the question of when payment would be received. The delay likely to be experienced before wages were paid must have been a cause for concern. In May 1533, for example, plasterers were among the workmen who received two months’ back pay; in their case, for working overtime on the new tennis play at Hampton Court.[77] Later that year James Nedeham visited Woking and spent eleven days surveying what had been done, setting workmen their tasks and, perhaps most importantly, paying them, to reduce the likelihood of defection from the site.[78]

Other Surveyors were not always in a position to reimburse the workmen so promptly and Summerson remarks on the ‘chronic shortage of funds throughout Stockett’s surveyorship’ between 1563 and 1579, which meant that he had to endeavour to keep men working in the knowledge that their back pay was continually mounting up. The problem was compounded by the extreme slowness of the bureaucratic processes by which money was obtained from the Exchequer, resulting in at least one serious crisis – at Reading in 1570-71.[79]

In 1609 a new set of Orders was introduced in an attempt to control the soaring expenditure of the Royal Works. There was not only the prodigality of the new king and queen to contend with, but also an inflation in costs of materials and wages which was not matched outside the works.[80] The orders clearly did little to alleviate this continuing problem and another crisis erupted in April 1617 when the workmen petitioned the Council, claiming that they had not been paid for a year and had no further means of support.[81] Andrew Kyrwyn, the Paymaster, had died in March 1617 and whether the failure to pay the wages was due to his incompetence or corruption did not become entirely clear.

Summerson suggests that things improved under Inigo Jones’s surveyorship and quotes a source from 1667 stating that the office of works became known for its ‘good conduct, frugality of expence, and sure payment’.[82] Nonetheless, the recurring difficulties in recruiting plasterers and preventing them from defecting once recruited that have been cited suggest that Inigo Jones’s surveyorship was little different in this respect from those of his predecessors.

It is probably merely coincidence that the reluctance to serve in the Royal Works was mainly evinced by members of the London company when the Royal Master Plasterer was not himself a member; James Leigh, who held the post from 1610-25, was a ‘foreigner’ and perhaps less able to convey to the men working under him a due sense of his authority.


This discussion of the working conditions of plasterers in the Royal Works and the possible reasons for the reluctance of London plasterers to volunteer for such work, applies only to those men who were engaged by the day. No objections seem to have been raised when task-work was involved and presumably the more highly skilled plasterers employed in this way were able to negotiate more favourable terms for the piece-work on which they were engaged. This kind of work must have been much closer to their pattern of employment in London, as self-employed plasterers. What is more, they would not be faced with spells of unemployment when their presence was not required, with consequent loss of earnings. The career of Matthew Barrett makes the contrast explicit. Whereas Royston was seemingly an unpopular destination for ordinary plasterers, Barrett undertook task-work at royal sites exclusively in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire – Royston (1609-10 and 1621-22), Theobalds (1611-12) and Newmarket (1617-18, 1619-20 and 1622-23).[83] . It is likely that Barrett, although a member of the London company, had settled somewhere to the north of the City. This supposition is lent support by his taking an apprentice from Cheshunt, Hertfordshire in 1611, while one of his own sons was apprenticed to Richard Terry in London in 1623/4. At least one member of the company is known to have taken up permanent residence outside London as Thomas Avis continued to pay his quarterage while living at South Mimms in Middlesex.

The opportunities for task-work for ordinary plasterers naturally increased when the Royal Master Plasterer was unable to fulfil all the plastering tasks which arose. This was never the case while Patrick and Thomas Kellie were in post (1555-67 and 1567-85). The level of building activity was so low during this part of Elizabeth’s reign that the demand for plastering was unlikely to overstretch either man. During the tenure of John Symonds (1587-97), however, the opportunities for other plasterers, whether members of the Plasterers’ Company or not, increased markedly because Symonds was a joiner who held the post as a sinecure. Routine work was delegated to Robert Burrowes, Thomas Kellie (the retired Royal Master Plasterer), Robert Browne, John Allen and William Stephenson. The decorative fretting of the roof of the new fountain at Hampton Court (1591-92) fell to Richard Barfeilde and John Adams,[84] while the fret ceilings at Woodstock were allocated to William Pearson, as described above.

While Richard Dungan held the post of Royal Master Plasterer (1597-1609) there was no likelihood of decorative work coming the way of anyone else and only items of routine plastering were available to the five plasterers who obtained task-work during the twelve years of his incumbency.[85] James Leigh was in post for fifteen years (1610-25) during which time he was even more heavily engaged than Dungan had been on the creation of decorative plasterwork, especially for Anne of Denmark. As a result an even greater number of ordinary plasterers obtained task-work commissions. This was especially the case in the first seven years of his tenure, when 13 plasterers were listed as task-workers.[86] After 1617-18 Leigh disappeared from active service and all task-work became available to other plasterers.[87]

Apart from the brief interval of Richard Talbott’s mastership (1625-26 or -27) all royal task-work was undertaken by ordinary plasterers for the remainder of the period of the accounts, as Talbott was the last man to be appointed to the post of Royal Master Plasterer. The role of plasterers during the Surveyorship of Inigo Jones (1615-43) will be discussed below.

Despite the incomplete nature of the documentary sources available for the period under discussion, it has been possible to demonstrate the very high level of dependence of the Royal Works on the Plasterers’ Company for craftsmen to carry out the plastering work which was needed at a great variety of sites. The presence of London plasterers in the buildings of the court provided them with opportunities of two kinds. In the first place, they were in a better position to obtain patronage from courtiers than were their fellow-members working only in the City. In the second place, they could see for themselves the latest fashions in interior decoration which were created in the royal palaces. During Henry VIII’s reign it was the style of ceiling design which was influential, rather than the use of plaster as a decorative medium in its own right. The importance of these opportunities for the plasterwork of the later sixteenth century will be considered in the chapter devoted to the emergence of decorative plasterwork. By the reign of James I and Anne it was the decorative plasterwork itself which would have influenced the plasterers who saw it in the palaces where they were working. The connections between plasterwork in the houses of royalty, courtiers and City dwellers will be constitute the final chapter of this study.

The Royal Master Plasterers

The appointment of a Master Plasterer in the Royal Works in 1555 might be viewed primarily as a bureaucratic regularisation, typical of the increasingly systematic and centralised organisation of the Royal Works under the Surveyorship of Lawrence Bradshaw (1547-60) described by Summerson; although it was not thought necessary to appoint a Master Bricklayer until 1609.[88] Unfortunately, the patent creating this new post in the Royal Works does not elaborate on the reasons for the appointment but it is apparent from the documentary sources that the plastering and colouring of walls and the ‘ceiling’ of rooms with plaster before they were decorated with battens of timber and/or paint became increasingly common in the first half of the sixteenth century, as can be seen in some of the original examples surviving at Hampton Court. The appointment of Patrick Kellie[89] as the first Master Plasterer could be seen, therefore, as a recognition of the growing importance of this aspect of the building and decorative trades in mid-sixteenth century England.

It is striking, however, that at this date there had been no use of plaster to create the decoration of a ceiling in a royal palace and after Henry VIII’s death innovation and experiment in this area must be looked for outside the Royal Works for some decades. Since there is no mention of ‘fretwork’ in plaster before 1582-84 and the Master Plasterer was always primarily engaged on routine rather than decorative plastering, it might be doubted whether the appointment really reflected the increasing importance of plasterwork in interior decoration during the second half of the sixteenth century. Lathing and ‘laying with lyme and haire’ and the whiting of walls and ceilings does not sound like a major departure in interior decoration, but that it was seen as such at the time is borne out by a much-quoted passage from William Harrison’s Description of England, written in 1577. This describes the plastering of ceilings, referring to ‘the delectable whitenesse of the stuffe itselfe’ which is ‘laied on so even and smoothlie, as nothing in my judgment can be doone with more exactnesse’.[90] This suggests that plain plastering well done was admired and the skill required to accomplish it was recognised in the appointment of a Master Plasterer.

As Master Plasterer Patrick Kellie was awarded 12d per day (although this seems to have risen to 2s when he was working outside London), but the relative status of the various master craftsmen employed by the crown is not reflected by their equal pay, as Summerson has pointed out.[91] The subtle gradations in status between the different crafts were indicated at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, when a less democratic allocation was apparent in the distribution of liveries. Whereas the Surveyor and Comptroller (both ‘esquires’) would have been resplendent in their 5 yards of ‘skarlett’, the Carpenter and Mason (‘yeomen’ or ‘grooms’) received only 4 yards of ‘red cloth’. The other artificers are listed separately, from the Sergeant-Plumber (5 yards of scarlet) to the Sergeant-Painter and Smith; the Plasterer is grouped with the Glazier and Joiner, and these last five all received only 4 yards of red cloth.

When a new set of Orders was issued in 1609, in an attempt to establish control of the spending on royal programmes, especially in relation to wages and the profits derived by the office holders, the Master Plasterer’s wage was doubled from 1s to 2s per day, or £36 5s per annum.[92] This raised him above the Joiner and Locksmith, who normally received only 1s 6d; but the picture in relation to the Mason and Carpenter is complicated by the extra emoluments which were paid to them, although their daily wages were also only 1s 6d. However, this advance in the relative status of the Master Plasterer may have been intended to reflect the extraordinary skills of the incumbent at that date, Richard Dungan, since the grant of the reversion of the post made to Richard Talbott in 1612 specified a fee of only 12d by the day.[93]

The careers of the six men who held the post of Royal Master Plasterer between 1555 and 1627 throw considerable light on the development of decorative plasterwork and the plastering industry throughout the period and are therefore examining in some detail.

Patrick Kellie

The only evidence that Patrick Kellie was a member of the London Plasterers’ Company is to be found in a report to the Court of Aldermen of 1554.[94] Kellie was accused by one of the wardens of the company of refusing to deliver up a key belonging to them, which suggests that he must have held a position of authority, either as one of the wardens or master of the company, in the preceding year. Nothing further was recorded of the matter and no further details of his career within the London company are available as he died in 1567, before the entries in the surviving company records begin.

Prior to his appointment to office in the Royal Works, Patrick Kellie was employed by the churchwardens of St Margaret’s, Westminster, supplying ‘lyme and other Stuf for the Whyttyng of the Churche in Grete’ in 1547-48. For this task he was paid £8 0s 10d, and London’s plasterers must have benefited from similar commissions as existing wall decorations were covered over in accordance with Protestant doctrine throughout the churches of the capital. Unlike most of the other craftsmen who worked on St Margaret’s, Kellie was a parishioner of the neighbouring parish of St Martin’s, home to numerous craftsmen employed in the Royal Works.[95]

Patrick Kellie’s career in the Royal Works began more than two decades before his appointment as Royal Master Plasterer. His name first appears in the accounts for work at Hampton Court in 1529, where he was employed as one of the ‘gagers’ assisting the plasterers.[96] The laborious task of ‘gaging’ the plaster (mixing it with the sand and hair) was usually assigned to apprentices, but if Patrick Kellie was still an apprentice at this date it is impossible to deduce which one of the plasterers on site might have been his master. He received the usual rate of 5d per day during the period 5 September – 25 December, and it may be that he was no longer an apprentice but just one of the more junior members of the team of plasterers on site.

By the time his name appears again in the records Patrick Kellie was receiving the standard rate of pay for plasterers of 7d per day. In the autumn of 1537 he was one of the team of plasterers shuttling between Hampton Court and Oatlands, working overtime to complete work on the royal lodgings at both palaces as speedily as possible.[97] The spring of 1538 witnessed a repetition of this frenetic activity which lasted until September of that year.[98] Overtime was required in May and June at Hampton Court to complete the close bowling alley beside the Thames, and plaster was being burnt during the night in June and July at Oatlands.

Patrick Kellie’s rate of pay had risen to 8d by the time he was working in the royal lodgings at The More in October 1541, presumably reflecting his increasing technical skill with both lime and hair and gypsum plaster.[99] He was engaged on similar work at the same rate at Dartford from February to April 1542.[100]

By 1547 he must have been regarded as the leading plasterer in the Royal Works, even though the position of Royal Master Plasterer had yet to be created and bestowed upon him in recognition of this fact. He was the plasterer listed among the ‘Artificers at Westminster’ who received black mourning cloth for Henry VIII’s funeral in that year.[101]

Patrick Kellie was appointed Royal Master Plasterer in 1555 at a time when, in Summerson’s words, the Royal Works was ‘little more than a palace maintenance department’. Henry VIII had left a large number of palaces sumptuously decorated and for some time his children needed to do little more than keep them in good repair. Evidence of the initial development of plaster fretwork to replace the timber-ribbed versions of the first half of the sixteenth century is not therefore likely to be found in the accounts of the Royal Works and there is no reference to Patrick Kellie carrying out any decorative plasterwork at any of the sites he visited.

The fourteen days Kellie spent at Nottingham Castle some time between 1560 and 1563 may have been connected with the projected meeting of Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, as suggested by Summerson.[102] This would probably have necessitated a major redecoration of the castle, but the proposed encounter was eventually abandoned. In 1566 Fotheringhay Castle was refurbished to accommodate the queen during her progress. According to Lewis Stockett’s account Kellie’s presence was required for seven days, when he was presumably overseeing the work of the plasterers whose names are recorded in a surviving paybook.[103] In April the plasterers were burning plaster and lathing the ends of the great chamber which they then plastered in May, together with the kitchen and various partitions. Compared with the 2s per day received by Kellie, the two plasterers received only 11d per day, raised to 12d in May.

There is, thus, nothing in the record of Patrick Kellie’s tenure of the office of Royal Master Plasterer to suggest that the position was created in anticipation of decorative plasterwork being applied to the interiors of royal palaces; nor is there any evidence that he was responsible for decorative work outside the Royal Works.

Thomas Kellie (1567-85)

When Thomas Kellie succeeded Patrick as Royal Master Plasterer in 1567 he, too, was combining the post with membership of the London Plasterers’ Company.[104] The fragmentary records of the company before 1570 throw no light on Kellie’s career up to that date, although he must have served as Junior Warden prior to 1570 in order to qualify for election as Senior Warden in 1572-73. He went on to serve as Master of the company no less than four times in the fifteen years before his death in 1589 (in 1573-74, 1576-77, 1579-80 and 1587-88). His career thus provides tangible evidence of the continuing close links which existed between the Royal Works and the London Plasterers’ Company. Before his appointment to the post of Master Plasterer it is likely that Thomas Kellie had, like Patrick Kellie, been employed at a more menial level within the Royal Works but no records survive to demonstrate that this was the case.

During Thomas Kellie’s tenure as Royal Master Plasterer the Works’ accounts were becoming more detailed and provide fuller descriptions of the wide variety of work he carried out than is available for his predecessor, but this is all of a routine nature. As Elizabeth’s reign wore on the need for palace maintenance cannot have lessened and Thomas Kellie was frequently on the move. Unilluminating references to the riding charges he was paid indicate visits to Hampton Court and Windsor Castle between 1567 and 1570.[105] In 1569-70 Kellie was engaged on a variety of routine tasks at Westminster and Reading.[106] In 1572-73 he was again at Westminster, in the College of St Stephen.[107] Woking was thoroughly re-plastered inside and out in 1578-79 for which Kellie was paid a lump sum of £68 to cover materials and workmanship,[108] and 1580-81 saw him working with unnamed others at ‘The Fryers House’ at Greenwich.[109] Kellie’s peripatetic existence continued with a visit to Greenwich in 1582-83, where he was paid £20 2s 5d by great ‘for lathing, laeing, mortering diuerse walles, and ceelings in & aboute the said house’, plastering various interior walls and ceilings with either lime and hair or gypsum plaster.[110] What this brief description fails to elucidate is the part Kellie must have played in the remarkable decoration of Conduit Court, where he would have been involved in rendering the walls of the courtyard and its newly-built covered gallery with plaster of Paris and ‘Reducing them into the Forme of stone assler’,[111] in preparation for the Sergeant Painter’s unifying scheme of trompe l’oeil architectural detail, which was discussed in Chapter I.

That same year Thomas Kellie was again co-operating with the painters in the finishing of the Whitehall Banqueting House, where the walls were plastered with lime and hair which was then roughened ‘the better to Receive the Painters woorke’. This was undertaken by the Sergeant painter but, somewhat unusually, Thomas Kellie’s task-work included ‘castinge in oile colours on the boorded roofe and inside of the batillmente by greate’.[112] This is the sort of task which is occasionally allocated to a plasterer within the Royal Works but which so often led to disputes between the Plasterers and the Painter-Stainers in London.

While Thomas Kellie was in post the earliest reference to ‘fretting woorke’ in plaster appears in George Woodwarde’s account for Windsor Castle, covering the years 1582-84.[113] This was the enriched-rib ceiling of Queen Elizabeth’s gallery – the earliest documented example of such a ceiling that has so far been identified. It is frustrating that Woodward does not name the skilled craftsman who decorated the ceiling, since the relevant particular book for this period has not survived. Thomas Kellie is, perhaps, not the most likely candidate for such an apparently innovative ceiling as he cannot have been a man in his prime by this date, given that he surrendered the post of Master Plasterer in January 1585.[114] According to an order made by the Lord Mayor and aldermen on 14th February 1586/7, when settling a dispute between the senior members of the Plasterers’ Company and the Yeomanry, regarding the number of apprentices bound by ‘Raphe Bettes now Mr of the same Companye and Thomas Kelley late Mr of the same Companye’, the aldermen found in favour of Bettes and Kellie ‘in respecte as well of their age and unhabilities to woorke as of the great paines Chardges and travaile by them susteyned for the benefitt of their said Companye...[115]

Despite this apparent decrepitude, in September 1587 Kellie was elected for a fourth term as Master of the Company, just after making his will in June 1587.[116] Even if Kellie himself was so incapacitated that he required three apprentices to help him, he was clearly still capable of organising the work of others, as his name appears again in the Royal Works at Eltham in 1587-88, when he was paid for ‘newe lathinge and leyinge of lxiiijor (64) yeardes of Ceelinge with lyme and heare in the Queens lodginges he fyndinge all manner of stuffe and woorkmanshippe’.[117] Thomas Kellie’s successor as Royal Master Plasterer, John Symonds, was a joiner, not a practising plasterer, for whom the post was presumably a sinecure. Consequently Symonds would have had to delegate the plastering task-work to someone competent, and Thomas Kellie seems to have fulfilled that role until his death.

Thomas Kellie died at some time prior to 14th February 1588/9, the date on which his will was proved. This is an interesting document as it shows that Kellie had amassed what was, for a craftsman, considerable wealth. He had no (surviving) son, but his married daughter and her four children received bowls and a goblet of silver parcel gilt, in addition to legacies amounting to £130. His wife, Margaret, inherited the residue after further small legacies, including 20s to the overseers of his will, one of whom was ‘Robert Browne, my neighbor’. This was presumably the plasterer of that name who had been apprenticed to Kellie in 1574.[118] A further 20s was also left to ‘the Mr and Wardens of the Company of Plasterers of London ... for a recreation to be spent amonge them at the tyme of my buriall’. Small wonder that he had been able to make a loan to the company in May 1587 during one of its periodic shortages of money, on which his widow was still receiving interest payments in October 1589.[119]

John Symonds (1585-97)

John Symonds was appointed, jointly with Thomas Kellie, as Master Plasterer in 1585, probably thanks to the influence of Lord Burghley, and continued to hold office until his decease in 1597.[120] Even though Kellie surrendered his share in the office almost immediately, it was only after Kellie’s death that Symonds required a ‘sufficient deputy’ and in the biography constructed by Summerson the suggestion was made that John Allen, also a joiner and Symonds’ ‘somtyme servant’, fulfilled that role.[121] Summerson goes on to speculate ‘that some members of the joiners’ company ... regarded themselves as purveyors of all fine ornamental work, whether in stone, wood or plaster’. This is not, however, borne out by John Allen’s career. Seven men besides Allen were engaged on plastering task-work during the period 1589-97 and his tasks at Whitehall (1593-94 and 1595-96) and at Woking (1593-94) were all entirely routine; and at Woking he was working in partnership with Ellis Johnson, a London company member.[122] Decorative plasterwork during this period was entrusted to other plasterers, as previously described.

Whether or not joiners regarded themselves as entitled to carry out decorative plasterwork (and Allen’s role in the Royal Works would not seem to support this), the London Plasterers’ Company most emphatically did not. Just over a year after the death of John Symonds deprived Allen of the protection of the Queen’s Master Plasterer, an entry appeared in the company’s Court Minute Book which stated that ‘John Allen free of the Joyners’ was to observe the ordinances for the binding of apprentices to train as plasterers, and would forfeit his bond of £100 if he failed to observe the regulations.[123] Allen accordingly presented his apprentices as he was required to do and was fined for ‘ill work’ by the company on occasion. In January 1611/12 he finally left the Joiners’ Company to become a liveryman of the Plasterers’ Company and went on to be elected Master in 1619, 1623 and 1630.[124] He was appointed Plasterer to the City of London in 1617 and held that post until 1627, when he surrendered it to Edward Stanyon.[125] Allen’s seniority within the company meant that he was one of only two members who continued to take precedence over Richard Talbott at company meetings, when the latter was appointed Master Plasterer to the king in January 1624/5. By acting with a certain amount of flexibility the London Plasterers were able to exercise a degree of control over those non-members wishing to carry out plasterwork; the absence of disputes with the Joiners’ Company suggests that they acquiesced in such arrangements.

Richard Dungan (1597-1609)

With the appointment of Richard Dungan as Master Plasterer in July 1597[126] a name finally emerges to which surviving plasterwork can be certainly attributed. To describe Dungan’s rise within the plastering profession as meteoric would be an understatement. Only two years after completing the usual term of seven years as an apprentice (1581-88),[127] Dungan was granted in 1590 the reversion of the Master Plasterership in the Royal Works ‘after the death or surrender of John Symonds; Thomas Kelley the former partner deceased’.[128] Here, then, is someone who is regarded as capable of fulfilling a role normally reserved for a man of proven skill and experience, who would only have been twenty-three years old if his London apprenticeship were his first. By 1594 he had entered the Livery of the company (a promotion which normally took about 14 years to achieve) and in October 1597 he was elected Junior Warden. He resigned from the latter post in March 1598 on succeeding John Symonds in the Royal Works. There would seem to be at least two hypotheses to account for such rapid advancement.

One possible explanation may derive from Dungan’s Irish origins. Dungan is an Irish surname and many of his fellow London plasterers were also Irishmen who maintained links with their native country. Perhaps Dungan had already received some training as a plasterer in Ireland and undertook a London apprenticeship in addition, in order to acquire freedom to work in the City. This would mean that he was not as young as the bare facts of his London training would suggest. Alternatively, Dungan might have been so precociously talented that early in his career he had caught the eye of someone at court whose protégé he became, in much the same way that Symonds seems to have been advanced by Lord Burghley. That he was highly gifted as a decorative plasterer is borne out by his subsequent career. Perhaps his rapid success can be accounted for by a combination of the above factors.

The London company was willing to recognise Dungan’s increased status as royal Master Plasterer, but only to the extent of granting him precedence at meetings over the rest of the assistants, after the current Master and wardens. This nicety of protocol became immaterial after 1601 when Dungan was himself elected Master, an office which he held again in 1604 and 1606 – further testimony to the regard in which he was held by his peers.

On his appointment Dungan was immediately occupied in plastering tasks, both routine and decorative, first for Elizabeth and then for James and Anne. For Elizabeth, besides the mundane plastering of walls at Oatlands, the New Barge House and Nonsuch,[129] Dungan was called upon to provide at Whitehall ‘a peece of frettworke in the Chamber where her Majesty sitts at Sermons all the whole lenght [sic] of the wyndowe’ and ‘a pairre of newe armes of the Quenes majeste in her highnes lodginges’, each costing the parsimonious Queen £2.[130]

Much more lucrative was the employment provided by James and Anne: at Eltham Dungan received £30 5s 3d for ‘a newe frett in the roofe of the Queenes Presence Chamber’ at 4s the yard, including the cornice and hair for the work.[131] A smaller fret ceiling at Whitehall in ‘the litle newe Cabinett ... of varieties of woorks and armes’ at 4s 6d the yard cost only £5 12s 6d.[132] For his work at the Banqueting House at Whitehall, however, he was paid £303 6s for what must have been sumptuous decorative work. More than half the total (£169 5s) was spent on 677 yards of ‘frettwoorke in the roofe of the banquetting house being wrought with deepe pendauntes and compartments’ at 5s the yard.[133] This cost was amended later in the account to 5s 6d, adding £16 18s 6d to the total. Such extravagant decoration contrasted with the ‘plaine frett’ which covered 388 yards of ‘the upper Ceeling of the two galleries, the windowes and lower ende of the Banquetting house’ at 3s 6d per yard (£67 18s). Presumably this was very similar to, if not identical with, the plain fret which decorated ‘the Ceelinge in the twoe lower galleries of the Banquetting house and the Ceeling at the lower ende betweene the Collumes and the ende wall’ which was also charged at 3s 6d per yard for 275 square yards (£48 2s 6d). The remainder of the total was spent on the plain plastering of the ceilings of two rooms beneath the Banqueting House (£1 2s).

The introduction of the term ‘compartments’ in this entry to describe the fretwork of the main ceiling would seem to indicate that there was something new and unusual in the ceiling decoration. It is possible that Dungan was attempting to create a version of coffering above the columned hall, suggesting a tentative move towards a more classical vocabulary in ceiling design. Serlio could have provided a model, albeit for a timber ceiling;[134] but coffering was already a familiar element in the decoration of soffits of funerary monuments. This ceiling might suggest that Inigo Jones’s introduction of classical forms in interior decoration was not without its forerunners, although the ‘deepe pendauntes’ reveal a lingering fondness for this typically Elizabethan ceiling ornament.

Routine plastering was required at other royal palaces, taking Dungan to various sites in London: St James’s in 1605-06 and again in 1607-09.[135] In the latter years he was occupied also at Somerset House, the Tower of London and the Royal Mews.

At the same time as he was earning considerable sums in the Royal Works, Dungan was equally profitably employed in providing plasterwork for two leading courtiers, Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst (1st Earl of Dorset, 1604, and Lord High Treasurer, 1599-1608) and Robert Cecil (1st Earl of Salisbury, 1605, and Lord High Treasurer, 1608-12). It is usually assumed that artisans in the Royal Works were able to exploit those contacts with courtiers which arose from their official work, but Dungan is one of the first plasterers for whom this documented. Sackville and Cecil were also friends, which makes it highly likely that Dungan, having worked for the former was then recommended by him to the latter. Dungan worked for both men not only in London but also at their country properties, demonstrating the manner in which fashions in plasterwork could be quickly and widely disseminated throughout the country.

After what appears to be minor ‘worke by him done about Dorset house in February last 1607’[136] Dungan moved (together with other members of the King’s Works) to Knole, where the 1st Earl was carrying out a major refurbishment of his existing mansion. In December 1607 Dungan was paid a final instalment of £199 7s in settlement of two bills for work carried out between March 1605 and July 1607, which included payments for plaster of Paris, water transport and work in Mr Thomas Sackville’s stable, and a total of £410 14s 6d ‘for fretts & other worke done at Knoll’.[137] Most of this total for the plasterwork at Knole must have gone towards the decorative work; and the ceilings which can still be admired at Knole today bear witness not only to the high level of skill at Dungan’s fingertips, but also to his imaginative flair. In the Cartoon Gallery and the great chamber (now the Ballroom), in particular, his creativity blossomed and covered the ceilings with floral displays that are unequalled at this date for their inventive originality. The sinuous snaking of the decorated ribs enclosing the fields distracts the eye from the monotony of the immensely long, thin rectangle of the ceiling between the gallery walls.

In the ceiling for the King’s Room Dungan may have moved even closer than at the Banqueting House to a classically-inspired design. Although the square compartments are edged by shallow enriched ribs rather than the beams familiar in Venetian ceilings, the ribs are much broader than usual on contemporary ceilings. The shallowness was perhaps to be expected if a printed source provided the model on which Dungan based his design. Flower sprays still sprout from the corners of the squares but at the centres they are surrounded by circular garlands of bay. What is more, there are no pendants in sight. The fact that only one ceiling follows this pattern indicates that classicism was seen primarily as an additional resource for the plasterer in his search for variety, especially in a room of the highest status, but not to the exclusion of more typical Jacobean styles elsewhere in the house.

After working for the Earl of Dorset Dungan was employed by Robert Cecil, primarily in London but also at Hatfield, where he might have provided all the decorated ceilings if death had not prevented him. The first payment was made on November 8th 1608 in connection with work taking place at Salisbury House, Cecil’s London home. He received £7 18s 4d for ‘making the parsonages in the forefront of the house next the garden’.[138] How far this might have involved modelling in a sculptural sense, rather than the preparation of and casting from moulds, is impossible to know. When Rowland Bucket was subsequently paid for painting these ‘parsonages’ they were described as standing ‘in the small arches towards the gardene on the outside of the house’.[139] This suggests that they were fully three-dimensional figures rather than reliefs applied to the wall surface of the house. ‘Parsonages’ sound like life-size figures, but since the number of figures is not mentioned there is no way of establishing the unit price, which might have provided some indication of their size.

Even this incomplete account is more detailed than those for the rest of the London work carried out for Cecil by Dungan. He was paid £38 7s 5d in January 1608/9 for ‘reparacions at Rutland house’ which was probably routine work, but the £250 he received for his plastering at ‘the newe Buildinges at Durham house’ (Cecil’s westward extension of Salisbury House) between December 10th 1608 and March 11th 1608/9 must surely have encompassed decorative work as well. Cecil’s New Exchange building, known as ‘Brittain’s Burse’ and completed with extraordinary speed between June 1608 and the summer of 1609, was a lucrative contract for Dungan, whose total bill for £434 18s 9d was paid in July 1609.[140]

By this date work was already under way at Hatfield and Cecil was becoming alarmed at the escalating costs of the building. A list dated 25th May 1609 itemises the outstanding charges ‘for the full finishing of his building at Hatfeild’ and includes the entry:

            ‘For all the Plasterers worke yet to be done, for stuffe & workmanship of the plasterer 967li’.

This was followed on 29th May by a list of the economies that could be achieved, including a saving of £200 by ‘omitting the purposed fretts’.[141] Building work was resumed once more and on 28th July a hasty memorandum was scribbled by Thomas Wilson, Cecil’s man of business, to instruct the workmen:

            ‘2. To make particions that the plaister may be dry & that the

            playsterer staye not his proceeding.’[142]

In the event the only payment made to Dungan connected with Hatfield House was for £60 in August 1609, but by this date only routine work had been required.[143]

 This prolonged outburst of furious activity from 1605 onwards (and it may have begun even earlier than the surviving documents demonstrate) came to an end in the summer of 1609 and by mid-December of that year Dungan was dead. He died childless and without making a will, but it is clear from the loans that he was able to make to the London company during his lifetime and the £5 he left to be spent by them on a ‘recreation’ at the time of his burial that his industry had made him a wealthy man.[144] It seems that he had also wanted his widow to pay for ‘a Carpett to the Company whereof he was Free with the plaisterers armes embrodered on the said Carpett’ and that she complied with this instruction.[145]

The estate left to Elizabeth Dungan (whom Richard had married in 1601 when she was already a widow with a daughter from her previous marriage) was evidently sufficiently large for a member of the Dungan family, Agnes Megram @ Dungan, to initiate a Chancery suit at some time before 1612 to try to obtain some share of the spoils. This claim was still being pressed in 1621. Elizabeth Dungan, meanwhile, had died in 1615 and left everything (apart from bequests to the poor) to her own family. Her estate included leases on properties in London and £500 in major legacies.[146]

Richard Dungan’s rise had not only made him wealthy; he also died a gentleman. Dungan’s funeral was described during the Chancery suit in the deposition made by Richard Browne, one of Dungan’s friends among the plasterers (Dungan having stood as godfather to Browne’s son, Richard, in 1600):

            ‘the said Dungan was buried in very good sort like a gentleman

with his armes in escotheons, on his Coffin...’

This grant of arms to a craftsman like Dungan must have been exceptional at this date and suggests that his application received support from a powerful sponsor (presumably one of his courtly patrons). This did not prevent Ralph Brooke (York Herald 1592-1625) from including Dungan’s name on a list of common tradesmen whom he regarded as unworthy of the arms granted to them by Sir William Dethick (Garter King of Arms 1586-1606).[147] Richard Dungan is probably the first plasterer to have made the huge leap in status from skilled craftsman to gentleman, and his wealth and position in court circles must have been the major factors facilitating this transition.

As a citizen of London, Richard Dungan had played his part as a respected member of the community. Within his parish of St Botolph’s Aldersgate, he served as a vestryman from at least 1601 until 1608, and a note made at Christmas 1607 indicates that he had also served as churchwarden until Midsummer of that year.[148] Between 1605 and 1608 he was one of eight men chosen to represent Aldersgate ward on the City’s Common Council.[149]

In the final year of his life Dungan moved to the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, home to many of the employees of the Royal Works, and it was in the parish church of St Martin that he was buried on 20th December 1609. A home in Westminster would have brought him closer not only to the Royal Works but also to Robert Cecil’s Salisbury House and New Exchange building. As his patronage seems to have emanated so largely from court circles it must have been more convenient to live close to the source of that patronage, rather than in the City.

Richard Dungan had thus risen to a position of some prominence within his City parish and his craft company and it is quite likely that this would have resulted in commissions from City patrons to produce decorative plasterwork for them. This may well have been the case during the reign of Queen Elizabeth but with the accession of King James and Queen Anne any such patronage can only have played a minor role in Dungan’s professional career. The very large-scale commissions for decorative and routine plastering work which he received from the king, queen and leading courtiers can have left little time for him to work for other patrons and his move to Westminster would seem to confirm this. He was, quite literally, turning his back on the City and concentrating his attention on the court as the focus of his professional activity.

That Dungan’s influence within the Royal Works continued after his death is suggested by the subsequent appearance among the plasterers named as ‘task-workers’ of Dungan’s friend, Richard Browne, and three of his erstwhile apprentices: Patrick Effe (who was also employed by Cecil at Salisbury House in 1611[150]), James Kipling and Richard Talbott. Indeed, Dungan may have expected Richard Talbott to succeed him as Master Plasterer but in the event the latter had to be content with the reversion of the office granted to him in March 1612.[151] His career will therefore be discussed after that of Dungan’s immediate successor, James Leigh.

James Leigh (1610-25)

It is unfortunate that James Leigh’s background remains obscure, but that he was not a member of the London company is confirmed by a petition made by William Blackshaw in 1646,

            ‘shewing that hee was bound apprentice to one James Lee late

            plaisterer to King James of happy memory with whome he lived

            as an apprentice for the space of eight years and upwards, but by

            reason his said Mr was a Farrinor hee cannot enioy the benefitt

            of the freedome of this Citty ...’[152]

Within three weeks of Dungan’s burial Leigh was appointed Master Plasterer to the king by a grant dated January 9th 1609/10 and that year saw the beginning of his involvement in the programme of decoration of rooms at Somerset House and Greenwich Palace which was to continue until 1616.[153] At the same time he also succeeded Richard Dungan in working for Robert Cecil at Hatfield House and as this was completed by 1612, it is this aspect of his career that will be considered first.

On 1st April 1610 Robert Cecil was once more growing alarmed at the spiralling expense of building Hatfield and asked for an estimate of the costs of the work outstanding. In reply the men responsible prepared ‘A breefe of the survay of my lords building at Hatfeld taken the 4th of Aprill 1610’ which stated that £250 would be required for ‘Plaistering all the brickwalls’.[154] Although the exact timing of Leigh’s appearance on the scene is difficult to establish, by November 1610 the plastering was well under way and Robert Liming was able to report of the lodgings at the east end of the house that ‘the plasterer is in hand with the finishing of them, which may very well be done’.[155]

By the following May the decorative plasterwork was nearing completion. In ‘A note of his Lordshipps buisines done at Hatfielde, & to be done, with the mannor of the proceedinge of yt. this 17th of Maye 1611’ several entries describe what Leigh had been doing.[156] The plasterer and the painter were about to finish work in the east great chamber, which would allow the scaffold to be removed. Similarly, the scaffold in the long gallery would be taken down shortly, as soon as the fret ceiling had been completed and distempered. It was hoped that the plasterers would be ‘clearelye rid out of all the house within this foure or five dayes; who have been the greatest cause of the house lyinge so foule’.

The final payment made to Leigh in March 1611/12 records that the total bill of £135 11s 5d was ‘for all his worke done there from November [1610] untill December 1611’. According to the entry made on January 31st 1611/12, £100 had already been paid to him ‘by way of impresse before Michaelmas laste 1611’.[157] This would not, however, appear to be included in the three payments totalling £121 11s 11d (£40, £40 and £40 11s 11d) made to him in June and August 1611.[158] These presumably related to work done before November 1610 for which no bills have survived; perhaps the plastering of the brick walls referred to in April 1610, or routine or decorative work not included in the final bill, such as the ceilings of the hall or staircase.

In the list of charges for plastering work for which Leigh received the final payment in March 1612, the entries for decorative work show that, in addition to applying distemper, white or coloured, to the plaster in various lodgings, James Leigh was allowed to give rein to his decorative skills in the long gallery, the east great chamber, the king’s bedchamber, under the stairs and under the screen and window soffits of the hall.[159] How much of the surviving decoration at Hatfield can be attributed to James Leigh has been a perennial subject for debate, and a full discussion of the problems associated with this subject will be found at Appendix B.

Although the evidence is incomplete, it would appear that decorative plasterwork played a less central role in the decoration of Hatfield House than it had at Knole. Robert Cecil appears to have been more willing to spend money on carving, joinery and painting than on plasterwork, and one is forced to wonder whether an attempt at economy was made ‘by omitting the purposed fretts.’ On the other hand, the restricted use of James Leigh may well have been forced upon Cecil by the demands being made of Leigh at the same time by Anne of Denmark, for whom the word ‘economise’ seems to have had no meaning.

Somerset House was the first of the queen’s palaces to be lavishly redecorated and in 1609-10 fret ceilings were provided in the privy gallery (363 yards at 3s 8d), the bedchamber (86 yards at 3s 6d) and the attiring chamber (57 yards at 3s 4d), the reductions in price reflecting the relative hierarchy of the rooms involved.[160] The following year the decoration must have been more elaborate as the ceilings of the library at the end of the cross gallery, the return gallery and the withdrawing chamber all cost 4s the yard; the cabinet chamber, privy chamber, presence chamber and lobby merited ceilings costing 4s 4d. The next entry contains a tantalising reference to thirty-two pendants priced 12d each, but without mentioning for which of the rooms they were destined.[161] The decorative plasterwork was completed the following year when Leigh charged 5s 6d per yard ‘for workinge a Frett with a freeze of one yarde depe in the Cabinett Chamber’, totalling 64 sq.yards. For piecing in seven yards of fret ceiling at the further end of the Cross Gallery he charged 5s per yard, while the ‘frett Ceelinge with the border and ij great window toppes in the great roome’ was cheaper at 4s 6d per yard, but extended over 117 sq.yards. For this room twenty-five pendants were supplied at 12d each.[162]  

Typically, none of these entries describes the actual appearance of the plasterwork but for the privy gallery further details were supplied when John de Critz, the Sergeant Painter, decorated the ceiling in 1615-16.[163] Gilding was applied to many of the cast decorative items: 72 mask heads, 36 square pendants, 24 round pendants and 72 roses; 110 marigolds were painted; 749 bosses were gilded and ‘layd rounde about with a blewe Coulor’. Although James Leigh’s plasterwork for Anne of Denmark was lost at the demolition of Somerset House in the 1770s some fragments have recently been excavated that are likely to have come from this ceiling and provide some clues as to the sumptuous appearance of the gallery when completed.[164] There is no reference to colouring or gilding applied to any of the other ceilings and it seems that even in royal palaces plain white was the most usual finish for plasterwork, whether plain or decorative. Leigh also carried out routine plastering of walls and ceilings, repairs to existing plasterwork and whitewashing (the materials coming from the stores of the Royal Works), so that when his work was finally completed in 1612-13 he received a total of £380 1s 8d for his workmanship alone, of which £319 19s 6d was for the decorative work.

At Greenwich, during the same period, new, brick-built lodgings were built for the queen, with a gallery and accommodation (including a study) on the first floor.[165] Leigh used plaster of Paris for all the ceilings, floors and walls in the queen’s lodgings, at a cost of 10d per yard, and lime and hair everywhere else, at the cheaper rate of 3d per yard. According to the accounts the gallery was the only room to receive a fretwork ceiling, for which 3s 8d per yard was charged by Leigh, but the entry unusually does not mention the type of plaster that was involved.[166] Excavated fragments of two coffered ceilings with classical architectural mouldings and floral centrepieces were found in 1970-71 that probably belonged to this phase of building work.[167] They came from two rectangular rooms at the south end of the west range, adjacent to the queen’s ‘new lodgings’ and represent a much more classically correct interpretation of coffering than was evident at Knole. Given that plaster of Paris was used so extensively in the interior decoration of the palace during this building campaign, these ceilings can probably be dated to c.1610, but it is frustrating that no specific mention is made of them in the accounts. It would certainly have been quicker to reproduce the repetitive coffering, with its relatively elaborate rib mouldings, in gypsum. No other decorative ceilings were recorded after the three ‘at the end of the Quenes lodgings in the garden’ that Leigh fretted with lime and hair in 1615-16.[168]

Given this high level of activity for Anne of Denmark, Leigh would not have had much time left for commissions outside the Royal Works and, as was suggested previously, it may have been his unavailability rather than a desire for economy which led Cecil to employ Leigh’s talents rather less than might have been expected. A detailed discussion of further plasterwork that may be associated with Leigh will be found in Chapter V of this study.

Leigh continued to draw his annual salary as Master Plasterer until 1624-25 but the pattern of his subsequent career is perplexing. By the end of 1614 he had completed the decorative plasterwork which he had contracted to undertake for the Charterhouse. He received £10 ‘for the kings Armes and Governors Armes with Compartments aboute them in the Schoolehouse viz for the kings Armes – XXs and for the Governnors Armes at Xs the peece there being xviij of them – IXli’.[169] In 1614-15 Leigh also travelled to Newmarket to carry out routine plastering in the lodgings there, in partnership with Richard Talbott.[170] In the following year he was back at Greenwich, executing the last fretwork of his career in the Royal Works, namely the three ceilings in the queen’s new lodgings in the garden, referred to above. Leigh is named on only one further occasion, at Oatlands, in 1617-18, where he was plastering the backhouse ceilings.[171] These three entries represent only a small proportion of the task-work carried out by plasterers in the Royal Works during these years and other men were employed on a variety of plastering tasks at palaces in Westminster, at Newmarket, Royston, Theobalds and Eltham.

Various hypotheses can be formulated to account for this but it may well be that no single explanation is sufficient in itself and a combination of factors was at work. One possible explanation might have been that James Leigh himself was no longer capable of fulfilling his role as Master Plasterer, on account of illness or old age; but such a theory is belied by Leigh’s employment by Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex, at Chelsea House in 1623.[172] The payments recorded cover only a brief spell in August and September, with Leigh receiving 2s per day for a total of  20 days. Such small payments indicate that routine plasterwork only can have been involved. Leigh was the senior plasterer on site but was only paid the same daily rate as the London plasterers working with him (Morgan Bluet/Blewett, George George and James Kiflinn/Kipling).[173] His apprentice, William Blackshaw, received 6d per day.

Richard Talbott’s skills were extensively employed during Leigh’s tenure and included working alongside both James and Abraham Lee; but it was Abraham Lee rather than Talbott who was entrusted with the task of executing the only example of decorative plasterwork for a royal palace after 1614, as previously described. That Abraham Lee obtained this commission would seem to further confirm the suggestion that he was at least closely related to the Master Plasterer and probably his son.

A more likely hypothesis to account for the absence of James Leigh’s name from those engaged on task-work would envisage him as fit and well and content to delegate the routine plastering to substitutes, because he was fully occupied providing decorative plasterwork in non-royal houses. Leigh must be considered a strong candidate as the executant of some of the plasterwork found in houses from this period but the problems of attribution are complex and will be discussed further in the concluding chapter of this study.

The final point to be considered in connection with Leigh’s career in the Royal Works is the reason for the abrupt cessation in the use of decorative plasterwork in the royal palaces after 1618-19. This occurred not long after Inigo Jones took up the post of Surveyor in October 1615 and possible explanations for this dramatic reversal in the fortunes of the royal Master Plasterer will considered in the section of the final chapter that considers the influence of Inigo Jones on London plasterwork. James Leigh’s tenure of the office of Master Plasterer in the Royal Works thus spans a period of transition in the use of decorative plasterwork in interior decoration at the top-most levels of society. The enthusiasm for Jacobean-style decorative plasterwork in the royal palaces and leading courtier houses was at its most intense in the first twenty or so years of the seventeenth century and might have continued unabated were it not for the innovations introduced by Inigo Jones that created entirely new fashions in interior design at court.

Richard Talbott (1625-27)

Richard Talbott succeeded Leigh as Master Plasterer in 1625 because he had been granted the reversion of the post in March 1612, before Inigo Jones arrived on the scene. As he had had to wait thirteen years to obtain the post, he was probably already in his mid-forties. He was presented to the London company as Dungan’s apprentice in 1593 but no details of his background were supplied. Having served the customary seven years, Talbott was made free in 1600 and paid his beadleship fine the following year. He was not an exemplary company member; not only did he fail to enrol his first apprentice in 1605, he was also fined for evil work in 1608 and 1609. Thereafter he played no part in the company’s activities until his appointment as royal Master Plasterer, beyond enrolling four apprentices, two of whom served their full terms to become freemen.

It was presumably through the influence of Richard Dungan, his old master, that Talbott gained profitable employment in the Royal Works. His plastering at Westminster in 1609-10[174] was typical of the routine task-work that he was increasingly called upon to undertake, as James Leigh ceased to fulfil his role as Master Plasterer. In 1614-15 he working on his own, plastering sheds at Whitehall;[175] but he partnered James Leigh in the work carried out in various lodgings at Newmarket in the same year. Talbott continued to be employed at Newmarket for the following two years, once more alone.[176] In 1618-19 he was colouring the walls of the tennis court at Whitehall and was working with Abraham Lee at St James’s Palace from 1618-20. [177] In 1620-21 he was engaged on the exterior and interior plastering of Buckingham’s lodgings at Greenwich and the Prince’s lodgings at Newmarket, where he was still occupied in the following year.[178] After 1620 neither of the Leighs was mentioned again and it was members of the London company who assisted Talbott, working either as his partner, in partnership with each other or on their own. Talbott himself was working without assistants for Lionel Cranfield at Chelsea House in 1622. He received 38s for work on ‘my lord’s study and new nursery’ which was probably of a routine nature. The following year he was paid even less for work done in the lower rooms by direction of Mr Inigo Jones.[179]

In 1622-23 he was plastering the chapel walls at Greenwich and, more significantly, the interior of the new Banqueting House at Whitehall.[180] The plastering of the walls had been carried out by unnamed plasterers paid 1s 8d or 2s per day, while Talbott was paid:

            ‘for stopping and whiting all the walles pillers and splayes of windowes

both above and belowe the banquetting house conteyning M c/ix xxx

yardes findeing whiting size and workemanship at ob [1/2d] the yarde

                                                                                                iiijli vd’.[181]

He returned the following year to whitewash the walls once more, when it was recognised that the previous allowance per yard had been niggardly and he was paid an additional £2.[182]

It is important for the subsequent development of decorative plasterwork to appreciate that plasterers, together with their apprentices, continued to be involved, even at a menial level, in the interiors created by Inigo Jones, where the decorative elements were now entrusted to carvers and painters. The plasterers could see what was being created even if their own participation was severely limited.

Talbott was subsequently employed not only at palaces in or near London (Westminster and Eltham in 1623-24; the Tower and St James’s in 1624-25); he was also sent further afield, in his new capacity as Master Plasterer, to Dover Castle (1625-26).[183] No doubt it was hoped that a quick coat of whitewash, combined with some patterning in distemper by the Sergeant Painter, would help to disguise the decay into which the old castle had fallen and bring it up to the standard required to receive Henrietta Maria on her arrival in England. This was Talbott’s last recorded task-work and the following year Martin Eastbourne was again substituting for him at St James and Whitehall; Talbott may by then have been ailing with whatever illness it was that caused his death in 1627.

Once Talbott had finally obtained the post of Master Plasterer he suddenly renewed relations with the London company and was admitted to the Livery in 12th September 1625, and on 24th of the same month he was raised to the court of assistants on account of his new position, despite never having served as a warden of the company. Not satisfied with this recognition of his status, on 25th January 1625/6 he was granted precedence over the whole company except for Messrs [John] Allen and [Richard] Browne, two of the most senior members of the company, both in years and prestige. His glory proved short-lived, however, as he died at some time during the first half of 1627. Thereafter his widow, Margaret, continued to run the plastering business until at least 1634, after which date there is a large gap in the company’s quarterage records.

The failure to appoint a successor to Richard Talbott may have been partly a money-saving measure; it certainly did not result from any shortage of skilled plasterers. These craftsmen had, however, been trained by exponents of the Jacobean style of decoration, no longer de rigueur in the Royal Works. Under Inigo Jones’s influence decorative plasterwork was temporarily eclipsed, as timber was used to create the new styles of ceiling decoration (as it had been during the reigns of Henry VII and VIII), and the carver and/or painter became responsible for the embellishment of Italianate beamed or coffered ceilings. But that this eclipse was only temporary will be demonstrated in the concluding section of this study.

In the absence of any surviving royal ceilings or friezes in situ from the early years of James’s reign, before the appointment of Inigo Jones to the Surveyorship, one has to look to courtier houses where royal Master Plasterers were employed to gain an impression of the sumptuous decoration which must have been created for the interiors of the royal palaces. Knole, in particular, provides strong evidence of the demand from courtiers at the highest level of society, for unique designs from plasterers. The employment of the same skilled craftsmen at court and in courtier houses outside London would have tended to produce a court style, which could then be emulated by lesser courtiers and affluent citizens of London. The decorative plasterwork which was created for such men will be the subject of the final chapter of this study.


[1] TNA E 36/235, 687-848.

[2] TNA E 36/236, 71-164.

[3] GL MS 2192.

[4] TNA E 36/239, 550.

[5] These fragments are BL Egerton MS 2408 and CLRO (ex-GL) MS 512, cited by Steve Rappaport, Worlds within worlds: structures of life in sixteenth-century London, Cambridge, 1989, 23-4. The MSS are published in C Welch (ed), Register of Freemen of the City of London in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, London, 1908, and it is this version which has been consulted. Rappaport used the original MSS because he found Welch’s transcription deficient but the documents are very damaged and Rappaport’s full transcript has not been published.

[6] TNA E 36/250.

[7] HKW, IV, 280.

[8] HKW, IV, 40.

[9] Bodleian MSS Rawlinson D.776, f 240r and Rawlinson D.780, ff 227v, 231v, 235r & 240r.

[10] GL MS 3555/3. When the Grant of Arms was made to the company by Clarenceux King of Arms in January 1545/6 William Bowdwell [sic] was recorded as one of the wardens of the company.

[11] A London plasterer named George Brownell was employed in the Royal Works at several sites between 1531 and 1535 and it is possible that Arnold was a relative, or even a clerkly error.

[12] Nottingham University: Newcastle MS Ne.01.

[13] TNA E 101/474/24.

[14] TNA E 101/489/22 and /25.

[15] TNA LR/2/64 Collyweston and HKW IV, 67.

[16] TNA LR/2/64 Fotheringhay Castle and HKW IV, 249. Patrick Kellie, as royal Master Plasterer, received travelling expenses for seven days arising from his visit to Fotheringhay Castle in 1564-66 (TNA E 351/3203), but whether his visit was to specify what needed to be done or to inspect the completed work is unclear.

[17] Bodleian MS Rawlinson A.195.c, ff 7r-188r, passim.

[18] Bodleian MS Rawlinson A.195.c, ff 212v-228v, passim.

[19] Bodleian MS Rawlinson A.195.c, f 397r.

[20] M Girouard, ‘The Development of Longleat House between 1546 and 1572’, Archaeological Journal, 116, 1959, 200-21.

[21] Longleat House Archive: Records of the Building of Longleat I, ff 195-6.

[22] TNA E 351/3200.

[23] TNA E 351/3246.

[24] TNA E 351/3244.

[25] TNA AO 1/2421/47.

[26] TNA AO 1/2422/49-50.

[27] TNA E 351/3253.

[28] This was not, of course, the case during the tenure of John Symonds (1585-97), when opportunities arose for other plasterers, since Symonds was a joiner who held the post as a sinecure.

[29] LMA ACC/1876/F/09/48. I am indebted to Stephen Porter (now retired from the Survey of London) for providing me with this reference.

[30] Three of the plasterers were apprentices to three different London masters. I have assumed that ‘John’ Davis is a clerk’s slip for Morrice Davis as their names only appear on different dates.

[31] It is possible that all or some of the remaining five plasterers represented the workshop of James Leigh, who could not have registered his apprentices with the London Company, but this is an unsupported speculation. It is possible that the second James Lee at the Charterhouse, who received the lowest rate of pay, may have been Abraham’s younger brother, another son of James Lee, the royal Master Plasterer.

[32] IGI microfiche: Surrey.

[33] BL Sloane 1706. A page from a paybook shows how many days were worked by Abraham I and James II in June and July and how much they were paid, but gives no details of the work undertaken. I am indebted to Malcolm Airs for this reference.

[34] GL MS 6122/2: 16th May 1647.

[35] James Lee II died in 1665 in the Parish of St Botolph, Bishopsgate, leaving the administration of his estate to his son, another Abraham (M Fitch (ed), Testamentary Records in the Commissary Court of London (London Division), Vol IV, Part 2, 1661-1700, London, 1996).

[36] These trade disputes are discussed more fully in Chapter III, devoted to the London Plasterers’ Company.

[37] GL MS 6132.

[38] TNA AO 1/2412/9, Task-work: Nicholas Harrowe and Richarde Evans.

[39] TNA AO 1/2419/41, Task-work: John Fithe; E 351/3256, Task-work: William Hearne.

[40] TNA E 351/3256, Theobalds. It is possible that Hearne owed his employment at Theobalds to Henry Hearne, the Clerk of Works at the site at that date, who may well have been a relative.

[41] TNA AO 1/2415/25.

[42] I am indebted to Dr Richard Williams for a reference which demonstrates a similar blurring of the distinctions between different trades. In the building accounts for Pepperhill and Grafton, where repairs were undertaken for the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1576, one of the plasterers is listed as both plasterer and tiler (BL Additional MS 46461, Shrewsbury (Talbot) Deeds, f 40).

[43] W G Bell, A Short History of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers of the City of London, London, 1938, 67.

[44] TNA E 351/3363.

[45] TNA AO 1/2422/50.

[46] TNA E 351/3266.

[47] J Imrie and J G Dunbar, Accounts of the Masters of Works for Building and Repairing Royal Palaces and Castles, Vol II (1616-49), Edinburgh, 1982, 47-111. I am indebted to Neil Hynd (retired from Historic Scotland) for sharing with me his unpublished research into the decorative plasterwork of Edinburgh Castle and Scottish courtier houses associated with it. On the basis of this research the two ceilings have been created in Edinburgh Castle, in the Presence Chamber and the King’s Dining Room.

[48] Deborah Howard, Scottish Architecture from the Reformation to the Restoration 1560-1660, Edinburgh 1995, 38.

[49] TNA L.C.2/4(6). I am indebted to Karen Hearn for this reference.

[50] M Airs, The Making of the English Country House 1500-1640, London, 1975 and The Tudor and Jacobean Country House, Stroud, 1995.

[51] D Knoop and G P Jones, ‘The Impressment of Masons in the Middle Ages’, Economic History Review, Vol 8, Nov 1937, 57-67.

[52] L & P, v, 260.

[53] L & P, v, 952 (81).

[54] TNA E 36/251, 200.

[55] Over 900 craftsmen and labourers are recorded at Whitehall in September 1531 (TNA E 36/252, Sixth solucio), of whom only 32 were plasterers.

[56] TNA E 36/251, 119.

[57] TNA E 351/3202 Whitehall: Rewards.

[58] The surname Stanyon appears just as frequently in the form Stanyan, but as Stanyon is the version which has already been published it has been adopted throughout this study.

[59] CLRO, Rep 28, ff 154 and 164-66.

[60] GL MS 6122/1: 10th September 1610. The Compter was one of the Sheriff’s Prisons, sited in Wood Street from 1555 (A Prockter & R Taylor, The A to Z of Elizabethan London, London Topographical Society Publication No 122 (1979), 55).

[61] GL MS 6122/1: 20th September 1611.

[62] GL MS 6122/1: 25the March 1614.

[63] GL MS 6122/1: 10th February 1614/15.

[64] GL MS 6122/1: 23rd April 1625.

[65] TNA E 351/3261, Hampton Court, Rewards: William Dalby.

[66] TNA E 351/3265.

[67] J R Dasent et al (eds), Acts of the Privy Council, 46 vols, 1890-1964, Vol XXXVII, 282.

[68] HKW  IV, 329.

[69] D Knoop and G P Jones, ‘Overtime in the age of Henry VIII’, Economic History, Vol III-IV, Feb 1938, 13-20. This article explains the extremely complicated system of notation used in the pay-books to record the hours worked by the craftsmen.

[70] This was not, perhaps, invariably the case. A single entry records a more generous payment to plasterers of an additional day’s wage for every nine hours of ‘howre times and drinking times’ worked (TNA E 36/242, f 236).

[71] Bodleian MS Rawlinson A.195.c, f 30r. Of the eight plasterers present, seven worked nights. The longest hours were notched up by Thomas and Robert Kellie, both of whom were paid for 24 days and 8 nights at the standard rate of 12d per day.

[72] TNA E 36/329, ff 135, 159, 170, 182, 195, 206, 216.

[73] TNA E 36/241, ff 465, 476, 505, 517, 532, 571, 588, 606, 625, 641, 654.

[74] Bodleian MSS: Rawlinson D.779, ff 1-62 and Foljambe, 15-53.

[75] GL MS 3555/3.

[76] Malcolm Airs excluded plasterers from his comparison of wages paid to craftsmen at country house building sites for this reason (M Airs, The Tudor and Jacobean Country House – A Building History, Stroud, 1995, 198-99).

[77] TNA E 36/237, f 636.

[78] Bodleian MS Rawlinson D.777, f 221r.

[79] HKW, III, 76-77.

[80] HKW, III, 110.

[81] TNA SP 14/97, no 49.

[82] HKW, III, 131.

[83] TNA E 351/3244 and /3255, AO 1/2420/42, E 351/3252, /3253 and /3256 respectively.

[84] TNA E 351/3226.

[85] These five plasterers were: John Browne, Thomas Browne, John Lee, John Pritchett and Richard Talbotte.

[86] In addition to Thomas Browne and Richard Talbott, 11 new names were recorded: Thomas Atkinson, Matthew Barrett, Robert Benson, Henry Brigges, Richard Browne, Robert Browne, Edmond Dillon, Page Effe, John Shambrooke, Henry Stanley and John Stanley.

[87] Richard Talbott and Matthew Barrett scooped most of this task-work, but Romane Cocke, Martin Eastbourne, Daniel Field, Abraham Lee and Kelham Roades were also employed.

[88] HKW, III, 55-9 and 410.

[89] The form ‘Kelley’ is more common in both the accounts of the Royal Works and the records of the Plasterers’ Company, but as ‘Kellie’ was the version published in HKW, for both Patrick and Thomas, it has been adopted here.

[90] F J Furnivall (ed), Harrison’s Description of England in Shakspere’s Youth, London, 1877, 234.

[91] HKW, III, 59.

[92] HKW, III, 110-19 and TNA SP 14/44, no.161.

[93] HMC, Calendar of the Manuscripts at Hatfield House, Part 21, 338.

[94] CLRO Rep 13, Part 2, f 336.

[95] Westminster Archive Centre: St Margaret’s Churchwardens’ Accounts, MF 963/E3; cited by Julia Merritt, ‘Religion, government and society in early modern Westminster, c.1525-1625’, Unpublished PhD thesis, University of London, 1992, 252.

[96] TNA E 36/239, ff 170, 182, 195, 206, 216, 225, 234, 254.

[97] TNA E 36/235, 237, 244, 245, passim.

[98] TNA E 36/235, 237, 238, 239, 244, 245, passim.

[99] Bodleian MS Rawlinson D.781, f 43r.

[100] Bodleian MS Rawlinson D.783, ff 170r, 188r, 204r.

[101] TNA LC 2/2, f 79v. He is listed together with the blacksmith, locksmith, clockmaker, glazier and matmaker.

[102] TNA E 351/3201 and HKW, III, 285.

[103] TNA E 351/3203 and LR/2/64.

[104] The likelihood is that Thomas was related to Patrick Kellie and may have been his son, but the surname occurs too frequently in the records of the Royal Works and of the Plasterers’ Company for this to be more than speculation.

[105] TNA E 351/3203 and 3204.

[106] TNA E 351/3205.

[107] TNA E 351/3209.

[108] TNA E 351/3213.

[109] TNA E 351/3215.

[110] TNA E 351/3217, Task-work: Thomas Kelley.

[111] TNA E 351/3217, Prelims.

[112] TNA E 351/3217, Prelims and Task-work: Thomas Kelley and George Gower.

[113] TNA AO 1/2477/258. An English transcription of the original Latin is given in W St J Hope, Windsor Castle. An Architectural History, London, 1913, 276.

[114] HKW, III, 410.

[115] A copy of this order was entered into the Plasterers’ Company’s Book of Ordinances, GL MS 6132.

[116] GL MF 9171/17, f 203v.

[117] TNA E 351/3222.

[118] GL MS 6122/1: 30th April 1574.

[119] GL MS 6122/1: 20th May 1587 and 13th October 1589.

[120] HKW, III, 410.

[121] J Summerson, ‘Three Elizabethan Architects’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 40, 1957, 209-25.

[122] TNA E 351/3228 and 3230.

[123] GL MS 6122/1: 29th November 1598.

[124] Allen’s son, another John, became a freeman of the company by patrimony in 1625, but since yet another John Allen had been freed by that date it is not possible to determine which of them was subsequently practising as a plasterer.

[125] CLRO Rep 33, f 136 and Rep 41, f 222. The entry mistakenly refers to Richard Stanyon but this is corrected in subsequent entries.

[126] HKW, III, 410.

[127] GL MS 6122/1: Dungan was apprenticed to John Murry in 1581. It is not known whether he was related to the only other Dungan recorded as a member of the company. This was Peter Dungen/Dongan who was apprenticed to Thomas Warbish in 1571, fined for evil work in 1586 and had an apprentice of his own by 1589, after which date his name does not appear again.

[128] Cal SPD, Eliz I, Vol 3, 713.

[129] TNA AO 1/2416/28 (1597), E 351/3233 (1597-98) and /3235 (1599-1600).

[130] TNA E 351/3233 (1597-98) and /3234 (1598-99). The window of the chamber ‘where her Majesty sitts at Sermons’ is presumably the one from which King Edward is looking out onto the Preaching Place in the woodcut from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, illustrated in HKW, IV, Plate 23. It would have been in character if Elizabeth wanted decorative plasterwork in this room only in the areas which were on public view.

[131] TNA E 351/3239 (1603-04).

[132] TNA E 351/3240 (1604-05).

[133] TNA E 351/3243 (1607-09). The gilding of the carved ‘boys’ for this ceiling was described in the section at the end of Chapter I devoted to the painting of decorative plasterwork. It is tempting to speculate that it was this ceiling that inspired Shakespeare’s lines in Cymbeline: ‘The roof o’ the chamber With golden cherubins is fretted; ...’ (Act II, Scene 4). The play is dated to 1609-10, when the splendour of the banqueting house would still have been topical.

[134] Serlio, Book IV, Chap. 12, f. 67v.

[135] TNA E 351/3241 and /3243.

[136] Kent CRO, MS U269, A1/2.

[137] Kent CRO, MS U269, A1/1. This is incompletely and incorrectly transcribed in G Beard, Decorative Plasterwork in Great Britain, London, 1975, 216-17.

[138] Hatfield House, Accounts 160/1, Receiver General’s Account Book, which is the source for all subsequent Cecil references, unless otherwise stated.

[139] Hatfield House, Family Papers 2nd Supplement, 1/85-89 (Bills 28, 1608), cited by Manolo Guerci, ‘Salisbury House in London, 1599-1694: The Strand Palace of Sir Robert Cecil, Architectural History, 52, 2009, 59.

[140] L Stone, Family and Fortune, London, 1973, 98-105. A sum of £9 12s paid on June 14th to ‘the plasterer upon a bill about dryine of the Seelings at Brittans Bursse’ has not been included as it does not name Dungan specifically, although he is most likely to have been the plasterer concerned.

[141] TNA MF SP 14/44-46, Reel 143.

[142] TNA MF SP 14/47-48, Reel 144.

[143] Hatfield House: BHH, Bills 37.

[144] GL MS 6122/1: 23rd January 1609/10.

[145] I am indebted to Thomas P Dungan for the details of Richard Dungan’s biography which are not derived from the Plasterers’ Company records and, in particular, for transcripts of Elizabeth Dungan’s will and of the Interrogatories made in connection with the dispute arising from it (C.24/486, Pt.1). The interview with Richard Browne, plasterer, conducted on 21st January 1621 provided the information about the carpet.

[146] TNA PCC 95 Rudd (Prob 11/126), 15th November 1615.

[147] I am indebted to Thomas P Dungan for an illustration of the coat-of-arms from Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a.146 (formerly 423.1), which contains the following reference: ‘Dungan clarke of the first frutes in Ireland had a patent for this about 1598 and payd to Garter for the same - 2li and a Caddowe for a bedd of 3li price. Dungan the playsterer geveth the same Coate by authorytie of Garter.’ This was part of the evidence brought by Brooke before the Earl Marshal’s Court in 1611. I am indebted to H E Paston-Bedingfield, York Herald, for details of the careers of Ralph Brooke and Sir William Dethick. According to Summerson, John Thorpe, appointed one of the King’s surveyors in 1611, adopted the coat-of-arms of a Thorpe who had been an Abbot of Thame without applying for a grant from the College of Arms himself (‘The Book of Architecture of John Thorpe in Sir John Soane’s Museum’, Walpole Society, XL, 1964-66, 10).

[148] GL MS 1453/1: St Botolph Aldersgate, Vestry Minutes 1601-57. There are no earlier surviving records. I am indebted to Thomas P Dungan for this and the following reference.

[149] GL MS 2050/1: Aldersgate Ward, Wardmote Inquest Book 1467-1801. One of Dungan’s fellow representatives during those years was Ralph Treswell, the surveyor.

[150] Hatfield House Accounts 160/1, where he is described as ‘Eaffe the plaisterer’; in the Plasterers’ Company records he usually appears as Page Elfe.

[151] HKW, III, 410, footnote 14. The reversion was granted by the Lord Treasurer, Robert Cecil, ‘procured by Sir Thomas Lake’, according to one of the docquets (1611-12) in HMC, Calendar of MSS at Hatfield House, Part 21, 338.

[152] GL MS 6122/2: 26th June 1646.

[153] Cal SPD, James I (1603-10), Vol LII/6, 580.

[154] TNA MF SP 14/53, Reel 146.

[155] TNA MF SP 14/57-8, Reel 148.

[156] TNA MF SP 14/63, Reel 150.

[157] Hatfield House: BHH, Bills 37.

[158] Hatfield House: Accounts 160/1.

[159] Hatfield House: BHH, Bills 58/63.

[160] TNA E 351/3244. The measurements of the privy gallery are annotated on Robert Smythson’s plan of c.1609 as 120’ by 20’, or 266 sq yards, so James Leigh’s 363 yards of fretwork plastering suggest that the ceiling over this room was a barrel-vault.

[161] TNA E 351/3245.

[162] TNA E 351/3246.

[163] TNA E 351/3250.

[164] Claire Gapper, ‘Appendix. Fragments of Decorative Plasterwork Excavated at Somerset House’ in Simon Thurley, ‘Somerset House. The Palace of England’s Queens 1551-1692’, London Topographical Society, Publication No. 168, 2009, 77-81.

[165] TNA E 351/3244 (1609-10). See also HKW  IV, 112.

[166] TNA E 351/3245 (1610-11).

[167] P W Dixon, ‘Excavations at Greenwich Palace 1970-71’, Greenwich & Lewisham Antiquarian Society, 1972.

[168] TNA E 351/3250.

[169] LMA ACC/1876/F/09/48. The routine work at the Charterhouse was carried out by Kelham Roades (a London Plasterers’ Company member and employee in the Royal Works) and his partners, who included Abraham Lee (possibly James Leigh’s son) as well as several members of the Plasterers’ Company. One of their bargains was for ‘working Cxxxix yards viii foote of Borders and Spandrells at iijs the yard – xxli xixs viijd’. The opening summary of work undertaken makes it clear that these borders and spandrels were also destined for the ceiling of the Schoolroom. In 1843 a new ceiling was inserted which purported to be ‘of the same moulded pattern as at present’. Photographs of this ceiling (available at English Heritage’s  National Monuments Record, Swindon) show a pattern of octagons and squares laid out in broad plain ribs, with small strapwork cartouches in the squares and larger ones in the octagons. However, the 1840s ceiling cannot have been an exact copy of the original since the shields contain no arms; nor does it include anything that might be described as ‘spandrels’. I am indebted to Stephen Porter, formerly of the Survey of London team working on the Charterhouse, for referring me to the building account and for information about the nineteenth-century ceiling.

[170] TNA AO 1/2421/45.

[171] TNA AO 1/2421/46.

[172] Centre for Kentish Studies: Sackville Papers, U 269/1 AP 45 and A 516/1. I am indebted to Edward  Town for bringing this and all other references to plasterers at Chelsea House to my attention.

[173] Blewett had worked alongside Abraham Lee at the Charterhouse in 1614; George was freed in 1618 but died in 1626; and Kipling, who had been apprenticed to Richard Dungan, was employed in the Royal Works in the 1630s.

[174] TNA E 351/3244.

[175] TNA E 351/3249.

[176] TNA E 351/3250-1.

[177] TNA AO 1/2422/49-50.

[178] TNA E 351/3254-5.

[179] Centre for Kentish Studies: Sackville Papers, U 269/1 AP 43.

[180] TNA E 351/3256.

[181] TNA E 351/3391, Henry Wicks’ account

[182] TNA E 351/3257.

[183] TNA E 351/3257-9.

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