The Burford Masons and the changing world of building practice in England, 1630-1730

Mobus, Melody Ann Clara (2012). The Burford Masons and the changing world of building practice in England, 1630-1730. PhD thesis The Open University.



Architectural history has traditionally focused on the named architect and the completed building. Investigation of the master craftsmen who realised the emerging architect's ideas while continuing to build to their own design has only recently been embarked upon. This thesis sets out to address this imbalance by scrutinising a group of master masons closely connected with Wren for over five decades.

This thesis, for the first time, explores the Burford Masons, three dynasties comprising the Strongs, the Kempsters, and Ephraim Beauchamp, who rose to join the elite of mason-contractors in the rebuilding of London. Examining their experience over the period 1630-1730, it aims to shed light on building practices undergoing transition to modem methods. The research is largely based on primary sources, some hitherto untapped, which has produced a wealth of new evidence.

The Burford Masons' careers are set out in Chapter Two, a Catalogue Raisonne giving the first comprehensive account of their works. The remaining chapters are thematic, Chapter Three investigating their experience after the Great Fire, a catalyst for changing building practices and their careers. Chapters Four and Five study the Burford Masons' evolving contractual arrangements, and their strategies to withstand the endemic problem of dilatory payments. Chapter Six scrutinises changes in London Masons' Company and the Burford Masons' involvement with it. Chapter Seven explores their role in design, both in conjunction with the architect and as mason-architects in their own right. It identifies them as a school of masons emerging from quarries.

The research deepens knowledge of the evolution of the contracting system in both London and the provinces. It shows the Burford Masons also in the process of change, becoming interdisciplinary master-builders, entrepreneurs, and financiers.

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