|Years active||c. 1180–1520|
English Gothic is an architectural style which flourished in England from about 1180 until about 1520. The style was most prominently used in the construction of cathedrals and churches. Its defining features are pointed arches, rib vaults, buttresses, and an extensive use of stained glass. Combined, these features allowed the creation of buildings of unprecedented height and grandeur, filled with light from large stained glass windows. Important examples include Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral. The English Gothic style endured in England until the early sixteenth century – much longer than in Continental Europe. It was succeeded by Tudor architecture and Renaissance architecture.
The Gothic style was introduced from France, where the various elements had first been used together within a single building at the choir of the Basilique Saint-Denis north of Paris, completed in 1094. The earliest large-scale applications of Gothic architecture in England were Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Many features of Gothic architecture had evolved naturally from Romanesque architecture (often known in England as Norman architecture). Other features were imported from the Ile-de-France, where the first French Gothic cathedral, Sens Cathedral, had been built in 1135–1164. After a fire destroyed the choir of Canterbury Cathedral in 1174, the French architect William of Sens rebuilt the choir in the new Gothic style between 1175 and 1180.
The transition can also be seen at Durham Cathedral, a Norman building which was remodeled with the earliest rib vault known. Besides cathedrals, the style appeared in university buildings, castles, palaces, great houses, and many smaller secular buildings, including almshouses and parish churches.
Historians traditionally divide English Gothic into three periods: Early English (c. 1180–1275), Decorated Gothic (c. 1275–1380), and Perpendicular Gothic (c. 1380–1520). The various styles are seen at their most fully developed in the cathedrals, abbey churches and collegiate buildings. With the exception of Salisbury Cathedral, English cathedrals show great stylistic diversity and have building dates that typically range over 400 years.
Salisbury Cathedral (1220–1258) is in the Early English style. (Tower and spire later.)
The Early English interior of Salisbury Cathedral
Hereford Cathedral (1079–1250)
The Early English Period of English Gothic architecture lasted from the late 12th century until midway to late in the 13th century, It succeeded Norman Architecture, which had introduced early great cathedrals, built of stone instead of timber, and saw the construction of remarkable abbeys throughout England. The Normans had introduced the three classical orders of architecture, and created massive walls for their buildings, with thin pilaster-like buttresses. The transition from Norman to Gothic lasted from about 1145 until 1190. in the reigns of King Stephen and Richard I. The style changed from the more massive severe Norman style to the more delicate and refined Gothic.
Early English Gothic was particularly influenced by what was called in English "The French style". The style was imported from Caen in Normandy by French Norman architects, who also imported cut stones from Normandy for their construction. It was also influenced by the architecture of the Ile-de-France, where the first French Gothic cathedral, Sens Cathedral had been constructed. The nave of Canterbury Cathedral, one of the first early English Gothic structures in England, was rebuilt in the new style by a French architect, William of Sens.
The Early English style particularly featured more strongly-constructed walls with stone vaulted roofs, to resist fire. The weight of these vaults was carried downwards and outwards by arched ribs. This feature, the early rib vault, was used at Durham Cathedral, the first time it was used this way in Europe.
Another important innovation introduced in this early period was the buttress, a stone column outside the structure which reinforced the walls against the weight pressing outward and downward from the vaults. This evolved into the flying buttress, which carried the thrust from the from the wall of the nave over the roof of the aisle. The buttress was given further support by a heavy stone pinnacle. Butresses were an early feature of the chapter house of Lichfield Cathedral.
Another innovation introduced in early English Gothic was the Lancet window, a tall narrow window with a pointed arch on top. They were grouped together side by side under a single arch and decorated with mullions in tracery patterns, such as cusps, or spear-points. Lancet windows were combined similarly pointed arches and the ribs of the vaults overhead, giving a harmonious and unified style.
Lancet windows in the north transept of Salisbury Cathedral (1220–1258)
The choir of Ely Cathedral, rebuilt in Decorated Gothic beginning in 1321
The second period of English Gothic architecture is generally termed Decorated Gothic, because the amount of ornament and decoration increased dramatically. It corresponded roughly with the Rayonnant period in France, which influenced it. It was a period of growing prosperity in England, and this was expressed in the decoration of Cathedrals. Almost every feature of the interiors and facades was decorated.
Historians sometimes subdivide this style into two periods, based on the predominant motifs of the designs. The first, the Geometric style, lasted (about 1245 or 50 until 1315 or 1360), where ornament tended to be based on straight lines, cubes and circles, followed by the Curvilinear style (from about 1290 or 1315 until 1350 or 1360) which used gracefully curving lines.
Additions in the Decorated style were often added to earlier cathedrals. One striking example is found at Ely Cathedral, The architect Thomas Witney built the central tower from 1315 to 1322 in Decorated style. Soon afterwards another architect, William Joy, added curving arches to strengthen the structure, and made further extensions to join the Lady Chapel to the Choir. In 1329-45 he created an extraordinary double arch in the decorated style.
Lierne vault of Gloucester Cathedral (1351-1377)
Decorated ornament on the west porch of Lichfield Cathedral (1195-1340)
Early buttresses, topped by pinnacles, at Lichfield Cathedral (1195-1340)
East window of Carlisle Cathedral, with curvilinear tracery (about 1350)
The buttress became more common in this period, as at Lichfield Cathedral. These were stone columns outside the walls which supportsd them, allowing thinner and high walls between the buttresses, and larger windows. The buttresses wee often topped by ornamental stone pinnacles to give them greater weight.
The nave of Canterbury Cathedral (late 14th century) abolished the triformium, and was entirely given to floor-to ceiling height
Windows of King's College Chapel, Cambridge (1446-1451) occupy almost all the walls
The Perpendicular Gothic (or simply Perpendicular) is the third and final period of English Gothic architecture It is characterised by an emphasis on vertical lines, and is sometimes called rectilinear. The Perpendicular style began to emerge in about 1330. A notable early example is the chapter house of Old St Paul's Cathedral, built by the royal architect William Ramsey in 1332. The early style was also practiced by Ramsey and another royal architect, John Sponlee, and fully developed in the works of Henry Yevele and William Wynford.
Walls were built much higher than in earlier periods, and stained glass windows became very large, so that the space around them was reduced to simple piers. Horizontal transoms sometimes had to be introduced to strengthen the vertical mullions.
Many of the cathedrals and churches were built with magnificent towers (York Minster, Gloucester Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral, and Boston Church (Lincolnshire), Wrexham Church, Taunton Church, and others. Other Notable examples include Kings College Chapel, Cambridge 
The interiors of Perpendicular churches were filled with lavish ornamental woodwork, including choir seats with lifting seats (Misereres), under which were grotesque carvings;; "Poppy heads", or carved figures in foliage on the ends of benches; and elaborate multicoloured decoration, usually in floral patterns, on panels or cornices called brattishing. The sinuous lines of the tracery in the Decorated style wee replaced by more geometric forms and perpendicular lines.
The style was also affected by the tragic history of the period, particularly Black Death which killed an estimated third of England's population in 18 months between June 1348 and December 1349 and returned in 1361–62 to kill another fifth. This had a great effect on the arts and culture, which took a more sober direction.)
The perpendicular Gothic was the longest of the English Gothic periods; it continued for a century after the style had nearly disappeared from France and the rest of the European continent, where the Renaissance and already begin. Gradually, near the end of the period, Renaissance forms began to appear in the English Gothic. A rood screen, a Renaissance ornament, was installed in the chapel of King's College Chapel, Cambridge. During the Elizabethan Period (1558–1603), the classical details, including the five orders of classical architecture, were gradually introduced. Carved ornament with Italian Renaissance motifs began to be used in decoration, including on the tomb of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey. The pointed arch gradually gave way to the Roman rounded arch, brick began to replace masonry, the roof construction was concealed, and the Gothic finally gave way to an imitation of Roman and Greek styles.
Worcester Cathedral cloister, where windows are reinforced with horizontal mullions (1404-1432)
Exterior of the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey (completed 1519)
A Queen-post truss
Section of a Hammerbeam timber roof.
The pitched Gothic timber roof was a distinctive feature of the style, both in religious and domestic architecture. It had to be able to resist rain, snow and high winds of the English climate, and to preserve the integrity of the structure. A pitched roof was a common feature of all the Gothic periods. During the Norman period, the roofs normally were pitched forty-five degrees, with the apex forming a right angle, which harmonised with the rounded arches of the gables. With the arrival of the pointed rib vault, the roofs became steeper, up to sixty degrees. In the late perpendicular period, the angle declined to twenty degrees or even less. The roofs were usually made of boards overlaid with tiles or sheet-lead, which was commonly used on low-pitched roofs.
The simpler Gothic roofs were supported by long rafters of light wood, resting on wooden trusses set into the walls. The rafters were supported by more solid beams, called purlins, which were carried at their ends by the roof trusses. The tie-beam is the chief beam of the truss. Later, the roof was supported by structures called a King-point-truss and Queen-post truss, where The principal rafters are connected with the tie beam by head of the truss. The King-Point truss has a vertical beam with connects the centre of the rafter to the ridge of the roof, supported by diagonal struts, while a Queen-Post truss has a wooden collar below the pointed arch which united the posts and was supported by struts and cross-braces. A Queen-Post truss could span w width of forty feet. Both of these forms created greater stability, but the full weight of the roof still came down directly onto the walls.
Gothic architects did not like the roof truss systems, because the numerous horizontal beams crossing the nave obstructed the view of the soaring height. They came up with an ingenious solution, the Hammerbeam roof. In this system, the point of the roof is supported by the collar and trusses, but from the collar curved beams reach well downward on the walls, and carry the weight downward and outwards, to the walls and buttresses, without obstructing the view. The oldest existing roof of this kind is found in Winchester Cathedral. The most famous example of the Hammerbeam roof is the roof of Westminster Hall (1395), the largest timber roof of its time, built for royal ceremonies such as the banquets following the coronation of the King. Other notable wooden roofs included those of Christ Church, Oxford, Trinity College, Cambridge, and Crosby Hall. A similar system, with an arched trusses, was used in the roof of Wexham Cathedral.
Balliol College, Oxford front quad (1431)
The Gothic style was adopted in the late 13th to 15th centuries in early English university buildings, due in part to the close connection between the universities and the church. The oldest existing example of University Gothic in England is probably the Mob Quad of Merton College at Oxford University, constructed between 1288 and 1378.King's College Chapel at Oxford University has examples of Gothic work in the north and west ranges of the front quadrangle, dated to 1431; notably in the medieval hall on the west side, (now the "new library") and the "old library" on the first floor, north side. The architecture at Balliol was often derived from castle architecture, with battlements, rather than from church models. King's College Chapel at Cambridge University featured another distinctive English Gothic feature, the Tudor arch.
The Perpendicular style was less often used in the Gothic Revival than the Decorated style, but major examples include the rebuilt Palace of Westminster (i.e. the Houses of Parliament), Bristol University's Wills Memorial Building (1915–25), and St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney.