William Joy

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Wells Cathedral: Joy's scissor arches

William Joy (fl. 1329–1348) was an English master mason, or architect, of the Decorated Gothic style, known for his work on several English cathedrals.

Joy's cathedral work shows influences of Bristol Cathedral, and he may have originated from that area.[1]

Wells Cathedral[edit]

William Joy was a colleague of the master mason Thomas Witney, and took over his work at Wells Cathedral in 1329. Joy extended the choir and retrochoir[2] and designed the choir vault.[3] Joy built the scissor arches to prevent the central tower from collapse after cracks appeared in the tower following repairs made after an earthquake in the 13th century.[4]

Wells Cathedral retrochoir

Several attempts had been made to strengthen the tower,[5] but Joy's unique [6] design has not only held, but decoratively references the Saltire Cross, the cross of St Andrew, the patron of Wells.[7]

Exeter Cathedral[edit]

The Bishop of Exeter, John Grandisson, founded a new church at Ottery St Mary, which was built by Joy. In 1342 he was in put charge of works at Exeter Cathedral. Initially he was charged with completing designs by Witney.[8]

Exeter Cathedral west front

The screen of the west front (illustration) is Joy's design. Consisting originally of two tiers of sculptures in canopies, it covered the original arches and contains the chantry of Bishop Grandisson. The first tier had sculptures of 25 angels, of which 23 remain. The second tier has niches for 25 sculptures of kings and knights. Ten sculptures dating from the 1340s survive today.[9]

Work on the cathedral was halted in 1348 by the Black Death, which struck just before Christmas.[10] As Joy is not mentioned after this date, it is likely that he was one of the victims of the plague.[11]


  1. ^ "William Joy, Oxford Index". 
  2. ^ Cannon, Jon (2007). Cathedral. London: Constable and Robinson. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-84119-841-5. 
  3. ^ Hendrix, John Shannon (2003). History and Culture in Italy. Lanham: University Press of America. ISBN 0-7618-2628-9. 
  4. ^ "Cathedrals of Britain". 
  5. ^ "Wells Cathedral Scissor Arches". 
  6. ^ "Wells Cathedral". 
  7. ^ Hendrix, John Shannon (2003). History and Culture in Italy. Lanham: University Press of America. p. 180. ISBN 0-7618-2628-9. 
  8. ^ Cannon, Jon. Cathedral. p. 335. 
  9. ^ "Exeter Cathedral". 
  10. ^ Gummer, Benedict. The Scourging Angel. p. 122. 
  11. ^ Cannon, Jon. Cathedral. p. 336.