Perpendicular Tracery

A uniquely English style

By the time the re-building programme at St.Wulfram's was ready to tackle the great East window, the fashion of sinuous curves of the Decorated period had given way to the uniquely English Perpendicular style. This had swept the country and was to hold sway in the land for over two centuries.

The Perpendicular style has advantages of ease of construction and economy and it has been suggested that, following the scarcity of labour following the Black Death of 1348, this would be a powerful reason for adopting a style simpler than the Decorated.

As the name Perpendicular suggests, vertical lines are prominent. These appear as continuations of the mullions into the tracery together with further mullions rising from the points of the arches above the lights. Some of them continue the line right up to the window arch. The result is to create half-lights in the tracery, in effect doubling the number of the lights as in the four-light window sketched below.

Horizontal lines, as well as the vertical, are an important feature of the Perpendicular style. Horizontal tracery bars called transoms may cut across the whole width of the window or, in the tracery, tie together several mullions. These transoms serve to divide up what might seem excessively tall lights or half-lights.

Where horizontals and verticals occur together a grid is formed and it is this feature of English Perpendicular which, for Pevsner, "is really what distinguishes it from all its predecessors".