Fig. 324. The Oak-Panelled Room, Fig. 320. Details Of The Overmantel.
Fig. 325. The Oak-Panelled Room, Fig. 320. Detail Of Panelling And Pilasters.
Fig. 326. The Oak-Panelled Room, Fig. 320. The Interior Porch.
Fig. 328. The Oak-Panelled Room From The Palace At Bromley-By-Bow. - Detail of panelling and pilasters. Date 1606. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fie. 297 is an example from Parnham Park, Beaminster, Dorset, formerly in the oak parlour, but removed to the Great Hall some twelve years ago. Parnham is of early-sixteenth-century date, but this lintel may have been preserved from a still older house. It is, essentially, a timber-house chimney-beam, whereas Parnham is stone-built.
The most typical examples of the stone-lintelled mantelpieces of the fifteenth century may be found in Lord Treasurer Cromwell's Castle of Tattershall. One of these is illustrated in Fig. 298, refixed at the time of the recent restorations to the Castle. It is from these stone mantels that the early chimney-beams of oak were copied, before the wood mantel acquired its later decorative importance. At the date when Tattershall was built this mantel represented the highest development of chimney decoration. Ralph Cromwell symbolised his elevation to the post of Treasurer of the Exchequer in 1424 by the money-bags which are carved in each of the corner panels. Waynflete was, probably, the designer of both the Castle and its decorations. In selecting stone mantels of this kind, as models for their carved oak chimney-beams, therefore, the designers of timber houses were copying the finest examples extant at their day.
Fig. 329. Oak Chimney-Piece. - The stone lining is carved with the arms of the Huxleys of Edmonton. - Date about 1610. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 330. Hemsted, Kent. Oak Mantel. - A reproduction. The panelling of this room is original early-seventeenth-century work. - Viscount Rothermere.
The earliest attempts at decorating the space above the mantel appear to have consisted of plaster panels set in flush with the wall-face. The flue and chimney breast, even in timber houses, were, of course, constructed either in brick or stone, and, while vertical oak stud-work may have had a certain decorative effect, it was dangerous to use it over the mantel. It is exceptional, however, to find any attempt at embellishing this space before the latter half of the sixteenth century. As a general rule, rooms were low, and mantels high, with very little space above them for more than a single row of panels, if the room was completed with panelling to the ceiling. These flush plaster panels or overmantels were very popular in Lancashire, Derbyshire and Cheshire from about 1570 to 1600, and were frequently enriched with colours. Fig. 299 may be regarded as typical of this period and district. The heraldry of the coats in the shields of these plaster panels is often false. To this date belong many of the allusive coats which puzzle the heralds of the present day.
Fig. 331. Carved Oak Panel - 3 ft. 3 3/4 ins. wide by 2 ft. 10 1/2 ins. nigh. Late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 333. Oak Mantels From Lime Street, City Of London - Date about 1620. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
The oak mantel develops in size and prominence very rapidly towards the close of the sixteenth century. In Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire there is a strong tendency towards an almost barbaric richness of ornament, coupled with the adoption of a type at a date much later than its fashion in other counties. Fig. 300, now in Bablake Schools, was formerly in the Coventry house of Sir Orlando Bridgman. At its removal the original jambs were replaced with others of quite simple fashion. The peculiarity of the later Midland development of the sixteenth-century Renaissance can be studied in this chimney-piece. The detail is coarse, an effect which must have been accentuated when the overmantel possessed its original heavy cornice.
Fig. 334. Oak Mantel From Lime Street, City Of London. - 6 ft. wide. Date about 1620. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
If there be such a style, in woodwork, as Elizabethan, then the arcaded panels, with the arches flattened, and centred by keystones with turned pendants beneath, and the shields below framed in paper-scrolling, may be described as being a Midland County perpetuation of that manner in a mantel of the seventeenth century.1 It is hardly correct, however, to state that English woodwork in the Midlands had become sufficiently homogeneous at this period to admit of any such style-classification; each district or county appears to have possessed its own manner, although such details as the arcaded panel appear in them all, and persist for nearly a century.