Master James of St George

 

Master James of St George ( 1230 - 1308 )
The most impressive and famous Welsh Medieval Castles were built during the reign of the English Plantagenet King Edward I (r.1272-1307). King Edward of England crushed the Welsh rebellion led by Llewellyn ap Gruffudd and conquered his kingdom of Gwynedd in Northern Wales. The English King Edward employed a strategy of building a chain of Welsh medieval castles and fortified towns which would span across the North West coast of Wales. King Edward employed the most brilliant architect and builder of the Middle Ages to help with his ambitious projects - Master James of St. George.

 
 
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Medieval Architect Master James of St George

  • Who was the Medieval architect Master James of St George?
  • Why was he key to building the Medieval Welsh Castles of King Edward I?
  • How many building projects of Welsh castles did James of St George oversee? 

Master James of St George

Biography of Master James of St George
Master James of St George was directly responsible for designing and building many of the Welsh castles which were either built or rebuilt by King Edward I. Thanks to the chroniclers of the Medieval era of King Edward I and the detailed accounts and records of castle expenditure we are able to build a biography of Master James of St George. King Edward I was a well travelled man. He had toured his lands in Europe and journeyed to the Holy Land on Crusade. And King Edward had connections with Savoy. The father of King Edward, King Henry III  had a connection with the house of Savoy - in 1264 Count Amadeus of Savoy had paid homage to King Henry. And King Edward's uncle was the Count of Savoy. King Edward's best friend was called Otto de Grandson whose home was in Savoy. King Edward visited Savoy in 1271 on his return from the Crusades and it was probably at this time that he met and saw the work of Master James.

Concise Biography of Master James of St George

  • Approximate Date of Birth - 1230
  • Place of Birth - Lake Neuchatel, Savoy
  • Savoy was situated on the Swiss-Italian-French border
  • Father - Also an architect with whom Master James initially worked for
  • Benefactor of Master James of St George - Count Peter II of Savoy (1203-1268) - King Edward's uncle)
  • Master James built Chillon and Villeneuve Castles and several other palaces for Count Peter II
  • Master James also built the Medieval town of Yverdon for Count Peter
  • The masterpiece Castle built by Master James for Count Peter was at St Georges d'Esperance
  • Master James took his title as ' Master James of St Georges d'Esperance'
  • Master James had his own business and worked for Count Peter between 1261 and 1277
  • King Edward I employed Master James in 1277
  • Master James worked for King Edward until his death for nearly thirty years
  • Master James was married to a woman called Ambrosia
  • James worked on King Edward's castles in England, Scotland and Wales
  • Master James built the castle to palatial standards. Castles built prior to his work were cold, dark and miserable
  • He was a Master builder, Architect and Siege Engineer
  • He also built churches
  • Master James favoured the defensive concentric style for the castles described as "walls within walls"
  • James was well educated and noted for keeping accurate accounts
  • King Edward's castle building plans were highly ambitious and demanded massive amounts of money. In February 1296 Master James was forced to write to the Exchequer in which he detailed the progress of the building of Beaumaris Castle. He added this Postscript "Sir, for God's sake be quick with the money for the works, as much as ever our Lord the King wills - otherwise everything we have done up to now will have been of no avail"
  • In this same letter Master James made mention of the hostile Welshmen who made working conditions difficult and went on to detail the labour requirements he needed to complete the castle:
    • 400 Masons
    • 2000 Labourers
    • 200 Quarrymen
    • 30 Smiths and Carpenters
    • The Garrison of Troops for protection
  • Beaumaris Castle was never completely finished - the cost of the castle was 14,000
  • It is estimated that the castles cost over 80,000 and bankrupted England
  • Master James helped King Edward to build ten new castles in Wales:
    • Bulith
    • Aberystwyth
    • Flint
    • Rhuddlan
    • Ruthin
    • Hope
    • Conwy
    • Harlech
    • Carmathen
    • Beaumaris
  • Master James of St George was paid three shilling per day in wages - a huge salary during the Medieval era
  • He was allowed to lease Royal manors at just a nominal rent
  • His permanent home was at a manor in North-East Wales
  • The life of Master James of St George was important. Various titles were conferred on him including    " Master of the Kings Works in Wales ". He was also given the role of Constable of Harlech. He was a powerful man and a very wealthy man.
  • He served King Edward until the old King died in 1307
  • Master James of St George died one year later in 1308 

Master James of St George

Medieval Architect Master James of St George

  • Who was the Medieval architect Master James of St George?
  • Biography of James of St George
  • Why was he key to building the Medieval Welsh Castles of King Edward I?
  • How many building projects of Welsh castles did James of St George oversee? 
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