Master Hugh Herland (c.1330-c.1411) led a charmed life. In 1377 Hugh became the new royal carpenter under King Richard II, a position which he held for 23 years. He had survived the troubled times of 14th century Europe, which included great famines, endless wars, peasant uprisings, plague, and even satirical attack by his immediate superior Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of The Canterbury Tales and Clerk of the King’s Works.
Master Hugh had a large budget, lived well, and travelled widely, working on substantial castles, palaces, harbours, tombs, and war machines. His work took him to The Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Winchester, Oxford, and to Brittany as a military engineer. His greatest achievement was the installation of the famous hammer-beam roof at Westminster Hall, possibly one of the greatest works of carpentry anywhere in the world, before or since. Hugh was a favorite of the king and dined often with His Royal Highness and with the Bishop of Winchester, William of Wyckham, who ordered Hugh’s portrait to be displayed in the stained glass of Winchester College Chapel.