Alan of Walsingham
- Matthew Woodworth
(b Walsingham, Norfolk; d Ely, Cambs, 1363).
English cleric, architect, and goldsmith. Already an accomplished goldsmith when first recorded as monk of Ely Cathedral in 1314, Walsingham was appointed sub-prior of Ely in 1316, sacrist in 1321, and served as prior from 1341 until his death. As sacrist, Alan of Walsingham was responsible for the building fabric, particularly finances and general repair. He also supervised new construction projects, organized and paid the labour force, and arranged for delivery of materials. During his tenure, Walsingham oversaw the building of a new sacristy (1322–5), the spacious Lady Chapel (1321–49), Prior Crauden’s Chapel (1322–8), guest quarters (1330), and Bishop Hotham’s partly remodelled choir (1338–50). Walsingham’s most ambitious project at Ely was the soaring Octagon and central lantern (1322–49), built to replace the original Romanesque crossing tower after it collapsed in 1322. Surviving Sacrist Rolls hold Alan himself responsible for the Octagon’s design, specifying that he measured out the locations of its eight supports, secured their foundations, and carried the walls up to their full height. Scholarship is divided as to Walsingham’s precise role in the Octagon’s final appearance, but, whether as architect or industrious layman, he brought to completion one of the most innovative and spatially complex structures of the 14th century....