The Perpendicular Style, also known as the Rectilinear, Late Pointed, Lancastrian or Fifteenth-Century Style, comprises the reigns of Richard II (1377-99), Henry IV (1399-1413), Henry V (1413-22), Henry VI (1422-61), Edward IV (1461-83), Edward V (1483), Richard III (1483-85), Henry VII (1485-1509), Henry VIII (1509-47), Edward VI (1547-53), Mary (1553-58).

The general appearance varies much in earlier and later work, the latter being overladen with panelling, the main lines in a perpendicular direction predominating. The windows, owing to their immense size, were strengthened by transoms in tiers, by primary and secondary mullions, and, in some great east end windows, by an inner structure forming a gallery across the window, as at York. The triforium practically disappeared owing to height of nave arcade and flat- ness of aisle roofs, the clerestory and aisle windows being of great size. The architecture of the last four reigns is frequently known as "Tudor" architecture.


Owing to the great building era that had preceded this period, ecclesiastical work consisted mostly of restorations or additions. In church planning there was a decrease in the size of the piers, and a tendency to throw all pressures upon the buttresses, which have often great depth. Towers are numerous and important, and were generally erected without a spire, as the Bell Tower, Evesham (1533). When a spire occurs, it rises behind a parapet, as at S. Peter, Kettering, Northants.


These were profusely ornamented with panelling, resembling tracery of windows, as at Henry VI I.'s Chapel, which may be taken as the most elaborate specimen of the style. The use of flint as a wall facing, for panels in conjunction with stone tracery, in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, was common. Parapets are embattled or panelled, and often very rich, as at Merton College, Oxford. Buttresses project boldly, being sometimes deep enough in pro- jection to allow of a chapel being placed between, as at King's College, Cambridge. They are also panelled with tracery, as at Henry VII's Chapel, and are crowned with finials, which are often richly ornamented with crockets. Flying buttresses are common and are often pierced, as at Henry VII.'s Chapel.


Arches in the early period inclose an equilateral triangle; they were afterwards obtusely pointed, or struck from four centres, sometimes inclosed in a square hood-moulding above the head, the spandrels thus formud being filled with tracery or carving.

Left: New College Chapel, Oxford (1356).

Right: Rectilinear tracery of great width, Kings College Chapel, Cambridge (c. 1500). [Click on the thumbnails for larger images.]

Windows consist mainly of mullions producing a perpendicular effect, hence the name of the period. The earliest are probably those at Winchester Cathedral, executed under William of Wykeham, and having mullions continued vertically their whole height, stopping against the main arch, and strengthened by horizontal transoms. In many cases they are of enormous size, converting the west end into a wall of glass, as at S. George's Chapel, Windsor, the east window at Gloucester (38 feet wide by 72 feet high), and King's College Chapel. Doorways were generally finished v/ith a square label over the arch, and the spandrel filled with ornament, as shown in the doorway of Merton College, Oxford. Lofty clerestories are general, and the space of the triforium is occupied by panels, as at S. George's Chapel, Windsor, or by niches for statuary, as at Henry VII.'s Chapel.


Open timber roofs of low pitch and of the hammerbeam construction abound; they were often richly ornamented with carved figures of angels, and with pierced tracery, many examples existing in Norfolk. The roof of Westminster Hall, erected in 1399, covers an area of nearly half an acre, being one of the largest roofs unsupported by pillars in the world. The later roofs in the style became nearly flat.

Fan Vaulting, Gloucester Cathedral.

Fan vaulting is characteristic of the later periods (page 288), Henry VII.'s, King's College Chapel, Cambridge, and S. George's Chapel, Windsor, as well as the vaults of the central towers of Canterbury and Gloucester Cathedrals, are well-known examples.


Piers are generally oblong on plan, ;mcl placed diagonally with their greater dimension north and south, caused by the vaulting shaft being taken up from the ground, on the front of the pier and not between the arches. The characteristic pier consists of four circular shafts connected by hollows, and with two fillets, these mouldings being carried round the arch. Capitals are sometimes polygonal on plan, and few hi'ivr tin' abacus and bell perfectly defined, the mouldings being weaker and less effective (No. 146). Carved capitals have foliage of conventional character, shallow and square in outline (No. 148 L). Bases to piers are often polygonal on plan and a typical moulding is the " bracket" mould (No. I464:2).


These were arranged on diagonal planes, being wide and shallow, and often large and coarse. Pier mouldings are often continued up from the base, and round the arch without the intervention of capitals. Crestings occur along the top of cornice mouldings, and diminutive battlements along the transoms of windows.


Canopies are often of ogee character, enriched with crockets. Ornaments and sculptured foliage, usually conventional in character. The special ornaments of the period are the Tudor rose, the portcullis, and the fleur-de-lis, all of which were used unsparingly (see Henry VII.'s Chapel), especially as ornaments in square panels.

Wooden chancel screens are very numerous, the upper part being divided by mullions. supporting tracery, and the whole was elaborately treated with panelling, niches. statues, and pinnacles; also with the Tudor flower cresting misereres under the choir-stalls of the period were carved with ornate foliage, grotesques, and flowers, and the bench ends with poppy-heads.

The tendency was to obtain ornamental motifs in decoration, by the application of features on a small scale, the tracery of windows being repeated on the walls as blank panelling and battlements being carved along the cornices. The golden tinge produced by silver stain, used along with white glass, gave contrast to the painted canopies of architectural character usually inclosing single figures. In very late examples, as at King's College, Cambridge, gorgeousness of coloring exists with great confusion of form and subject, the general design becoming more pictorial, and perspective being introduced, thus breaking away from the conditions imposed by the material. This return to color, however, prevented any such completeness of one tone effect, as in the early work. Color decoration was freely employed on roofs, screens, pulpits, and olliei liftings, as in the churches of Norfolk, Suffolk and elsewhere.

Follow for examples of a Perpendicular font, piscina and sedilia.


Fletcher, Banister, and Banister F. Fletcher. A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method for the Student, Craftsman, and Amateur. 5th ed. London: B. T. Batsford, 1905. Pp. 335-41.

Last modified 30 August 2007