An interesting parallel to the transformation of our Lady Chapel, by Quivil and Bitton, is furnished by that of the Chapel attached to the palace at Wells. The original builder of that Chapel, as of the entire palace, was no doubt Bishop Jocelin (1206-1242).(24) But the banqueting house is known to be Bishop Burners (1275-1292) (25): and from the close similarity of the tracery, the present windows of the Chapel must have been the work of Bishop Burnell also, or of his successor (1293-1302). And in this case, the insertion of the Decorated windows between the earlier buttresses is more observable than at Exeter, a totally different stone being used from that with which the Chapel was built at first. The parallel between the dates is remarkable: it stands thus -
Exeter Lady Chapel built c. 1200: transformed 1280-1301.
Wells Palace Chapel......c. 1206: „ 1275-1302.
Quivil's successor, Bitton, took up the work where Quivil left it.(26) Unfortunately, the Fabric Rolls for seven years more at this period (1292-1299), are not forthcoming. Possibly, as no similar hiatus occurs during some 70 years (1279-1350), the whole expense during these 14 years (1285-1299), was borne by the resources provided by Quivil, partly during his lifetime, partly by his will;(27) and so no Chapter accounts were kept for the whole period. However this be, the works carried on by Bitton were very extensive indeed.
And, first, the completion of the Lady Chapel. For in 1301, the second year after the resumption (or reappearance) of the Fabric Rolls, we find a charge which can have no other meaning. It is for "painting forty-nine bosses (claves, keys, or key stones), "and other parts of the vaulting with gold, silver, azure, and other colours.(28) That this refers to the bosses of the Lady Chapel, with the SS. Mary Magdalene and Gabriel Chapels, is certain. For the number of bosses in them is exactly 49; viz., in the Lady Chapel, 31; in each of the other two, 9; while the colouring found to have existed on the minor Chapels, and now restored, consists of an azure ground, with gold stars and silver half-moons; that of the Lady Chapel being chiefly of gold, with red, green, brown, and "other colours." This entry, then, gives us the exact date of the completion of this beautiful work by Bitton, ten years after the decease of Quivil in 1291. The leading was not put on until about two years later(29) And this entry being thus proved to belong to the Lady Chapel works, Dr. Oliver supposed, not unnaturally, that the next entry belonged to it also, and shewed that Bitton glazed the Lady Chapel. This, as we shall see presently, is a mistake. The "vaulting stones," in the same year, and carving of fourteen bosses at 3s. 6d. each, were probably for the choir-aisles. (See Note 35).
For a far greater work undertaken, and in the main accomplished, by Bitton, was the transformation of the Choir into the Decorated style, after the example set by Quivil in the easternmost bay of the Nave. The work would appear, from the Roll entries, (as we shall see presently), to have been taken in hand in two portions: the one extending to the first four bays, or the "presbytery"; the other to the remaining bays. And it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, vast as the work must have been, the whole of it, as regards the fabric (if we except the glazing of the western half, and the eastern triforium arcades), was actually the work of Bitton, during his Episcopate of fifteen years (Nov. 1292 - Sept. 1307) - the last fifteen years of Edward I. The proof of this, in the absence of direct documentary evidence, rests upon the following facts.
We find from the Fabric Rolls, when we again catch sight of them in Bitton's seventh year (1299), that some great work is in progress, for which stone is brought in large quantities from Barley, and from Salcombe and Branscombe sandstone quarries. Caen stone is now first mentioned as having been bought in Quivil's time. (Dr. Oliver has printed this Roll at full length, pp. 392-407). From Hamhill, (Oliver, p. 379), stones are brought for the steps of the High Altar; and in 1303, the "three steps" are laid down, with a paved area on either side (Fabric Roll). This implies an advanced state of the choir works. Sir A. Raleigh was buried there in 1301. (Deed 2127).
But further, the Purbeck marble pillars, with their arches of native sandstone, must have been completed at this time: together with the mullions and tracery of the windows, both in clerestory and aisles, to the extent of at least the four easternmost bays; and we cannot tell how much further. For in 1301-2, the stained glass is purchased for the great east window, and the circular gable-window above it, which lights the roof; as well as for the adjacent or easternmost pair of clerestory windows: costing œ29 2s. 5 1/2d. for the entire area of 1271 square feet of glass(30) In the same year we have the glass for another pair: and two years later for four windows more, making in all eight clerestory windows.(81) It is interesting to observe that the glass for these, and, as a general rule, for all the windows, is ordered in pairs at a time; no doubt because the opposite windows are always of exactly the same pattern.
The glass for some of the aisle windows below was procured at the same time; viz., for one pair in 1302, and for another, in the retro-choir, in 1303.(32) Glass for a third pair must have been provided, though we have no record of it; for our next item, in the year last mentioned, (1303-4, Bitton's eleventh year), is for glazing the whole of the windows which have been specified. "Master Walter le Verrouer" (i.e., the glazier) receives "for setting the glass of the upper gable, and of eight upper windows, and of six windows in the aisles of the new work, in gross, œ4 10s."(33) A careful examination of the Fabric Roll entries, shewing the exact correspondence between the quantities of glass provided, and the area of the several windows which I have named, renders it certain that these and no others are intended: (see Notes 31-33). The cost of the glass for a clerestory window was œ6 4s. 1d.; for an aisle window, œ4 8s. 7 3/4d.