Crude wall paintings, usually executed in flat oil colour, must also have been usual, especially in the eastern counties of England. With subsequent panelling, whitewashing or modern paper-hanging, it is not remarkable that few have been discovered, but there is reason to suppose that in Essex and Suffolk they were general, in the fifteenth-century timber house of the lesser class.
An example, from Colchester Museum, is shown here in Fig. 257, by the courtesy of Mr. Guy Maynard. This was discovered behind wall-paper and deal panelling at Hill House on North Hill, Colchester, in 1910, by Mr. Thomas Parkington of Ipswich, who presented it to the Museum. Every wall of the room was decorated in this way, on a thin coating of plaster spread over the rough "wattle-and-daub" between the oak studs. Mural decorations of this kind were, possibly, used to cover the plaster, in the interior of timber houses, at a very early date. When a timber house is demolished, no care is taken, for obvious reasons, to strip the whitewash or paper to the bare plaster, and numbers of these painted walls must have been hacked down. The Colchester Museum example is very late in the sixteenth century, and is painted in nine colours, black, yellow, orange, red, brown, violet, pale blue, pale green and dark green.1 The cruder, and possibly, earlier examples are usually in black and white, having the appearance of stencils, but drawn with the free hand. At Saffron Walden Museum is a portion of a wall of studding and plaster where the monotone design has considerable decorative merit.
Figs. 258 and 259 are from the Victoria and Albert Museum. The first is a frieze or band, in the pure Italian manner of the later sixteenth century, probably imitating the fresco paintings of that time, or the embossed and painted leathers which were only used in important houses. It would hardly be expected that these mural decorations would be as early as their models, or, in many cases, that they would be as old as the houses in which they are found. This frieze is of about the middle of the seventeenth century. It is executed with considerable artistic skill.
1 "On some early domestic decorative wall-paintings recently found in Essex." Miller Christy and Guy Maynard. Essex Archaeological Society, Trans., Vol. XII.
Fig. 260. Portion Of Oak Great Hall Screen. - See Fig. 261. ' Late fifteenth century. Mrs. D'Oyley.
Fig. 259 is earlier, - from the late sixteenth century, and cruder in every way. Here the model is the tapestry cartoon, and the inspiration still Italian, but strongly permeated by Flemish influence, as one would expect at this period.
That painted cloths, - in imitation of the lordly tapestry, - or mural paintings, were the usual attempts, in timber houses of the poorer class, to relieve the bareness of wood and plaster, there is little doubt, and that these substitutes were employed long after panellings came into general use in the more opulent secular houses, is equally certain. Wainscotting of oak must have been an expensive luxury at all times, although, in some of the older farmhouses in Kent, it is not exceptional to find the principal living-room clinker-boarded, in the primitive manner of the late fifteenth century. Whether these boardings have a claim to such antiquity is doubtful.