Ornate as this Rotherwas woodwork is, in the Banquet Hall, it is still characteristically English in conception and execution. The oak mantel is decorated in polychrome, and above the shelf are four caryatid figures, representing Justice, Fortitude, Temperance and Prudence. The walnut panelling consists of a lower or base tier of inner framed panels placed lengthwise, a middle section with similar panels upright, divided by fluted pilasters with carved capitals, and an upper tier of arcaded panels with turned half-columns between, the whole surmounted by an elaborately carved and truss-bracketted frieze in the high-relief strap-work of the early seventeenth century. This woodwork must be regarded as an exceptional effort on the part of the owner of Rotherwas, and there is little doubt that designers and craftsmen from the South-east of England were imported into Herefordshire for its execution. Figs. 347 and 348, known as the James I room, is typical of its locality, and is, probably of prior date to the Banquet Hall panelling. It is unusual in having a tall arcaded panel below and a short one above, with two tiers of square panels between. The extensive use of the gadroon is typical of Cheshire and Lancashire at this date.
The panellings in what was known as the Julius Caesar Room, Figs. 349 and 350, are more refined in character than in the James I room, but are still local in type. The panels are large, framed in with separate mitred mouldings, and the pilasters are slender and without taper or entasis. The timber is quartered oak of exceptionally fine figure and quality. Of the three caryatid figures on the overmantel, the one on the right bears a superficial resemblance to a Roman soldier, from which circumstance the name of the room was probably derived. The heraldic shields in the two panels are in original polychrome.
It must be remembered that none of these Rotherwas panellings were in original situ at the time of their removal in 1912. They had, in nearly every instance, been adapted to the eighteenth-century house with some necessary rearrangement of the panelling flanks. Many examples of the woodwork of James II and Anne at Rotherwas, in unusual woods, such as yew and sycamore, also existed, and were readapted at the same time. The Bodenhams were Royalists, and, as such, suffered considerable hardships during the Commonwealth. Between 1620 and 1685 no work appears to have been undertaken at Rotherwas, and none of importance was put into the house after. 1625. The last of the Bodenhams, Count Lubienski Bodenham, died in 1912.
Billesley (it is Billeslei in Domesday) is a Warwickshire village and a manor house, some miles from Alcester. The manor has both a Saxon and a Norman history, but it is with the later house of the seventeenth century that we are concerned here. It has records of considerable antiquity. It is entailed on the heirs male of Sir Alured Trussell, Knight, in the sixth year of Richard II (1382). The Trussells appear to have held Billesley, although much of their property in Norfolk, Berkshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Essex, passed with the marriage of Elizabeth Trussell in 1523 to John Vere, afterwards Earl of Oxford. Thomas Trussell is Sheriff for Warwickshire and Leicestershire in this year, and was, doubtless the owner of Billesley. Dugdale asserts that he is buried in the Billesley church of All Saints, but we shall have more to say about this church a little later on.
Another Thomas Trussell, the fifth in descent from the Sheriff of Warwickshire, is the last of the family to hold Billesley, as in 1604 it is sold to Sir Robert Lee, Kt., the son and heir (although he is the younger of two brothers, Henry and Robert) of Sir Robert Lee, Alderman of the City of London, and, later, Lord Mayor. The Trussells appear to have held Billesley, in unbroken succession, since 1165, when Osbert Trussell had the manor of William, Earl of Warwick, for the service of one Knight's fee.
Fig. 374. The Oak-Panelled Room From Clifford's Inn. - Detail of a door. Date 1686-8. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Sir Robert Lee made Billesley his country seat, and sixteen years later, he, in turn, is High Sheriff for Warwickshire. Whether his brother was the same Sir Henry Lee who was Master of the Armoury at the Tower in 1580, is not certain, but there is some evidence, as we shall see later, to show that he was, probably, a connection, at least. The date is interesting, as the renowned Jacob Topf was Court Armourer at this period.
With the later history of Billesley we have little concern. The Lees held it until about 1690, when it was sold to Bernard Whalley, who appears to have done little or nothing in the house although Dugdale claims that he rebuilt the church. From the same authority we learn that the Trussells, Lees and Whalleys lie in the churchyard, but it is the arms of Whalley, argent three whales' heads razed sable, which are glazed in the East window.
Fig. 375. Chatsworth, Derbyshire. - The State Dining-room, sometimes called the State Great Chamber. - Date 1690-4. The Duke of Devonshire. J. Albert Bennett, Esq., Photo.
There is a mystery here; of this Whalley church not a vestige remains, and what is even more strange, the churchyard with its tombs has disappeared likewise. The present church of All Saints is a small structure, evidently composed of windows and fragments from a secular house of the late seventeenth century. When it was built, or what became of the Whalley church, or of the family tombs, is quite unknown. Still more strange, the signposts show the way to Billesley; it figures on the ordnance surveys, yet the village has also disappeared without trace, nor has it been known to exist since the Black Death swept its population away in the early fifteenth century. There is, therefore, not only a church, with East (chancel) window glazed with the Whalley arms all complete, but an entire village also, which must be reckoned among the missing, lost without any records, antiquarian or local. Gone also is the flowered cross of the Trussells, the silver and black shield of the Lees and the whales of Whalley.
Fig. 376. Chatsworth, Derbyshire. - The State Drawing-room. - Date 1692-4. The Duke of Devonshire. J. Albert Bennett, Esq., Photo.