The Search for John Tresilian, Master Smith to Edward IV

Jane Geddes investigates the remarkable ironwork of the gates of the tomb of Edward IV, and considers what they can tell us about 15th-century craft and culture.

Most medieval blacksmiths, like other craftsmen from the Middle Ages, remain anonymous and forgotten. Occasionally documents, perhaps relating to guilds, court cases, rentals or wills, may cast some light on a few individuals but the chances of connecting documents to surviving works of medieval wrought iron are very slight. As a result, we know little about the working practices, training and social milieu of medieval blacksmiths. However, a trail of tiny clues has opened up the world of John Tresilian, one of the greatest smiths whose work survives from the Middle Ages, revealing a complex cultural background and highly evolved technical skills. He made the astonishing gates and suite of door furniture for Edward IV’s chantry at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, between 1477 and 1484.

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