As illustrating this richness of ornamentation in the Midlands at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and, at the same time the use of an earlier style, the three overmantels from Lyme Park, Figs. 301 to 303, may be given as examples. Unfortunately, these are merely castings from originals which have disappeared, probably when Leoni rebuilt the house. How much he added is also conjectural. At the date, about 1603, when Sir Piers Legh built Lyme as his habitation, a considerable amount of fine woodwork must have been put in, judging from the original fragments of panelling and staircases which still exist in the Leoni house. That some desire must have been felt to preserve as much of this old house as was possible, consistent with its considerable enlargement in all directions, is indicated by the central portion of the entrance front, Figs. 304 and 306, which has been rebuilt with the old stones, marred, however, by the classical windows which Leoni inserted. Fig. 305 shows Leoni's central courtyard, and it will be seen that no fragment of the original house remains on these elevations. A feature here is the size of the panes in the sash-barring of the windows, all of fine crown glass, and all intact. This glass is of beautiful colour, with the whirling marks visible in every pane.
1 This mantel is dated 1629. The general style is earlier, however, even for Warwickshire.
Fig. 336. The House Of Sir Paul Pindar, Formerly In Bishopsgate Without. - Built 1600. Demolished 1890. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
It is idle to conjecture why the originals of these fine overmantels were not preserved.1 The plaster copies are richly coloured and emblazoned, but it is impossible to imagine that these are the mantels of the early-seventeenth-century house. The original chimney-pieces must have been removed while the house was being rebuilt, and, with plaster, this would have been impossible. It is more reasonable to suppose that the originals were in sculptured stone, and were incapable of being removed without breakage, and before taking them down these plaster copies were made. Lyme is in a stone county; there are stone outcrops everywhere in the Park, and Sir Piers Legh may have chosen the more accessible, and more durable, material for his mantelpieces, with the idea that his house would persist for a period considerably longer than a century. He had not reckoned with changes of taste, or desires for vast rooms of great height, which his Jacobean house could not satisfy. These plaster overmantels, copies as they may be, are exceptionally interesting nevertheless, as showing the rich work which was put into a Knight's country house in the first years of the reign of James I.
The oak overdoor from Rotherwas, in County Hereford, Fig. 307, is a good example of the Flemish Renaissance development, in the Welsh bordering counties, at the close of the sixteenth eentury. Here we have the coarse fretwork ornamented with strap-and-jewel and pierced pinnacles, in the manner which permeated Lancashire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Derbyshire and Herefordshire very thoroughly at this period, especially in the designing of staircases such as at Aston Hall. The arms carved on this overdoor are those of Bodenham quartering Baskerville. The shield of the Bodenhams, with its twenty-five quarterings, is illustrated in Fig. 346.
1 There is the possibility that these plaster overmantels are actual originals from the old house of Lyme. In their present state of later emblazonry, it is impossible to say. If original, they have been both repaired and added to, either by Leoni, or at a later date. The mantels below appear to be from his designs.
Fig. 337. Sherard House, Eltham, Kent.
The custom of making wall panellings, with the join of the sections masked by carved pilasters, appears to have originated at the very close of the sixteenth century, and to have been very general throughout England. At an earlier period any joins in the lateral rails of panellings were frankly made, scarfed together with no attempt at concealment. In Derbyshire, Cheshire and Lancashire, the usual plan appears to have been to make both the panellings and the pilasters in two distinct lateral sections or stages, divided by a moulded surbase or dado-rail, as at Tissington, Fig. 308, and Lyme, Fig. 309. The same system was adopted, in a different manner, in the case of the East Anglian woodwork of this date. In the Tissington panelling this arrangement is better indicated, the fluted pilasters with moulded-panel bases having both dado and skirting mitred round in the one unbroken lateral line. At Lyme, the panelling, originally that of a Long Gallery, has been very badly adapted to the present drawing-room, with the stages of the pilasters not in vertical line, and the whole effect marred by the enormous angle-pilaster which is fixed to the junction of the compass-window recess with the flank wall, and which cuts the panelling up in a very unfortunate manner. Yet this woodwork, such as is original, far transcends that at Tissington in its design and rich decoration of moulding, carving and inlay. It is exceedingly refined, yet in a county the woodwork of which is remarkable for the absence of such a quality, as a general rule. Both at Lyme and at Tissington there is the same interlaced arches rising from small fluted pilasters, with moulded tablets on the intersections, - a detail which is rarely, if ever, found other than in the Western Midland Counties.