Fig. 364. Oak-Panelled Room. - A typical example of the 1640 period. Hampshire type.
If the details of this Bishopsgate house are in the London manner of their period, it must not be imagined that the house itself is of a style usual in the East of England, still less so in London. In construction, - it is really formed of two huge frames, - in its breaks, angles, projections and central semicircular oriel window, it is far more typical of Devonshire than of London. Here in the metropolis this house must have been exceptional and striking even at the date when it was built; in Exeter, apart from its rich ornamentation, it would have fallen in with the scheme of things, and have aroused little comment.
Fig. 365. Oak-Panelled Room. - Date about 1640. J. Albert Bennett, Esq., Photo.
The panelled rooms, with their mantels, which were removed, a few years ago, from Sherard House at Eltham, are examples of this Lime Street, or typically Home County manner of the first quarter of the seventeenth century, and at the same time instances of how these old panellings were esteemed. A portion of one of these rooms is illustrated in Fig. 338 which will show, partly, the state they were in when discovered. The word " partly " is used advisedly; a portion of the many wall-papers, with their canvas backing, has been removed, and fragments of the later plaster cornice have been hacked down. The original work could not have been obscured better, had the attempt been made deliberately. The mantels were coated with paint so thick as almost to fill up the details, not only of the carving, but the moulding as well. Where fine woodwork is in situ, and preserved, there may be two opinions as to the morality of its removal and sale, but with instances such as these rooms from Sherard House there can only be one. Sherard House owes its name to a later owner, William Sherard, LL.D., Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, a native of Leicestershire, who was born in 1659, or more probably to his brother James, who bought the house at Eltham in 1718-19. Both brothers were celebrated botanists, but it is to James that Sherard House owed its wonderful collection of rare plants, the world the two books "Hortus Elthamensis," - famous in their day, - and Oxford the nucleus of its famous Botanical Gardens.
Fig. 366. Another View Of The Oak-Panelled Room, Fig. 365. - Date about 1640. J. Albert Bennett, Esq , Photo.
Fig. 367. Oak Chimney-Piece And Panelling. - From Swann Hall, Suffolk. Date about 1650-5. - Messrs. Robersons.
Fig. 368. Oak Mantelpiece. - Total width 7 ft. 8 1/2 ins. Total height 6 ft. 11 1/2 ins. Wood opening 5 ft. 2 ins. by 4 ft. Stone opening 3 ft. 6 1/2 ins. by 3 ft. 1 1/2 ins. - Date about 1640-50. J. Dupuis Cobblod, Esq.
Fig. 369. Oak Mantel. - Width over jambs 7 ft. 10 ins. Over cornice 8 ft. 5 ins. Total height 7 ft. 11 ins. Wood opening 5 ft. 11 ins. by 3 ft. 9 ins. - Date about 1650. J. Dupuis Cobbold, Esq.
This interesting Eltham house is shown in Fig. 337. On one of the rain-water heads is the date 1634, but this is late, by some years, for the mantels and panellings, yet almost a century earlier than the windows and the doorway. These latter were probably the work of James Sherard after he acquired the house in 1718.
The wainscotting of these Eltham rooms is simple in design, practically the same pattern being adopted throughout, of scratch-mouldings carried through in the vertical styles, with the upper edges of the lateral rails left square or slightly bevelled. The oak everywhere is of superb quality. The mantels are all variations of the Lime Street manner, differing considerably in their design, but relying, for decorative effect, on the use of elaborately mitred mouldings. All three shown here in Figs. 339 to 341 have the quarter-round sectioned shelf, with a small projection, strapped over by flat trusses to carry the pilaster-line from mantel to overmantel. In Fig. 339 an ingenious use is made of the half-mitre in the pilasters of the upper stage. Fig. 340 has a single central alcoved niche or apse, flanked on either side by moulded panels very intricately mitred. Fig. 341 has the decoration of applied fretting and semi-balusters on the downward-tapering pilasters, those of the overmantel having, on their bases, a representation of the coursing of masonry. There is a considerable degree of quiet charm in these three Sherard House mantels, and, considering the self-imposed limitation of the designer, the result, achieved by the inexpensive means of ingenious use of the mitre and half-mitre, is distinctly successful.
It was intended, at first, to illustrate these rooms as restored and re-erected in New York, with the stone linings replaced, but, on consideration, it was decided to show them in situ, before removal, with the later grates masking the original fire-openings, and with no attempt at restoration beyond the stripping of the wallpapers necessary to expose the panellings and a local removal of the paint to ascertain the quality of the oak beneath. In some of the rooms in the house a later high skirting had been nailed over the panelling, and every effort appears to have been made to disguise the original work, almost beyond recognition as such.
Fig. 370. Oak Panelling. - The type of 1670-80.