We have illustrated the type of woodwork which was made for the chambers of a plain Cornish gentleman in Clifford's Inn between 1686 and 1688. Attention may be turned, for a brief space, to examine the same large-panelled style as made for a nobleman, - perhaps not a very wealthy one at that date, - in the case of the Earl of Devonshire at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. This can only be by way of a digression, as neither palatial woodwork nor furniture really illustrate the evolution of craft or design, being always exceptional in character, in a manner which places almost each example in a class by itself.
The history of the Cavendish family is interesting from many points of view, even if we begin as far back as the Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench in 1366, 1373 and 1377, Sir John, who founded the line of which, at a later period, two branches were to attain dukedoms. William Cavendish, the fourth in descent, was gentleman-usher to Cardinal Wolsey, and remained faithful to him in his disgrace. He outlived the great Cardinal, and at the dissolution of monasteries obtained large grants of abbey lands, upon which his third wife, the famous Bess of Hardwick, built many mansions, and to which the same lady added many broad acres.
Tradition has it, prophecy of the time foretold that Bess of Hardwick should never die as long as she continued building, and it is reported that her death actually took place during a snowstorm, when the masons could not work. It is obvious that in the reign of Henry VIII the subject of such a forecast had not to reckon with such trifles as trade disputes or strikes, otherwise, in modern parlance, the actuarial risk would have been greatly enhanced. True or false, prophecy or no prophecy, Bess of Hard-wick left to succeeding Cavendishes the advantage, - or should it be the incubus, - of many houses. Chatsworth, Hardwick, Holker Hall, Lismore Castle, Compton Place at Eastbourne, and Devonshire House in Piccadilly, these were all Cavendish property at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Fig. 383. Detail Of The Architrave And Door, Fig. 382.
It was in 1686 that the Earl of Devonshire (afterwards the Duke) began the alterations to Chatsworth, with Talman, the architect of Dyrham, as his advisor. The Earl was in his forty-sixth year at this date. He brings workmen from town; Henry Lobb and Robert Owen, the "London joyners" figure in the estate records for 1688, and Thomas Young and William Davis are the carvers. Legend has connected the name of Grinling Gibbons with Chatsworth, and he may have made models or even have carved a sample piece or two in the Great Chamber, Fig. 375, but the bulk of this fine carving, in soft lime tree, is the work of a Derbyshire man, Samuel Watson, who was engaged at Chatsworth from 1691 to 1715. Thomas Young and William Davis, before-mentioned, appear to have been contractors, - or "upholders," in the eighteenth-century phraseology, - as to them sums aggregating more than £1,000 are paid for the carvings in this Great Chamber, and over £2,000 for wainscottings, which include the panellings here. In 1692 William Davis appears, associated with Joel Lobb and Samuel Watson, contracting with the Earl of Devonshire for carvings in lime tree to cost £400.
The Earl could not have been a very wealthy man at this date, that is, on the scale which the possession of six great houses would demand. There was no Eastbourne to swell the Cavendish revenues, and London property had not acquired a tithe of the rental value which it afterwards did. Yet there is no severe economy evident, as far as the work at Chatsworth is concerned. The State Drawing-room, Fig. 376, is even on a more lavish scale than the Great Chamber, with its wonderful Mortlake tapestries on the walls, and its equally wonderful carvings over the mantel and the doors. Through the open door in Fig. 375, can be seen one of the door-cases of locally-quarried alabaster, and in Fig. 377 is shown one of these gorgeous doorways together with the forged iron balustrading of the stairs, the work of Tijou. Work on this scale of magnificence must have occupied many years. Talman is instructed, as we have seen, in 1686, but Samuel Watson, the carver, is still engaged at Chatsworth some twenty-nine years later, although probably working, at this date, on accessories which were in the nature of after-thoughts.
The large six- or eight-panelled doors, as seen in the State Drawing-room, with carved door-heads, were the mode at the close of the seventeenth century. From that house of many periods, Woodcote Park at Epsom - now the golf club-house of the Royal Automobile Club - in an ante-room which was formerly the chapel, the door, shown here in Fig. 378, was taken. It is on a smaller scale than the doors at Chatsworth, only three-panelled, and double, with the large box-locks of the period, a copy from the French Louis Ouatorze. In Fig. 379 is shown the mantel from the same room, - probably of somewhat later date, as much work was done at Woodcote from the late seventeenth to the middle eighteenth century, - with a framed panel above the opening, here empty, but formerly containing a picture, surrounded by festooned carvings in soft lime tree, somewhat weak in design.
Fig. 384. Sections Of Door And Architrave, Fig. 382. - Actual size.
The substitution of red deal for oak usually marks the beginning of the eighteenth century, the usual finish being either painting or graining. Occasionally we meet with an example of scumble-work at this period, - a glazing of amber-coloured varnish over a white or a stippled ground of yellow, the effect of which is charming, although some artistic deception in material is necessarily implied, - and, very occasionally, the woodwork is marbled. For important work oak was still used, often in conjunction with stucco composition, or even scagliola. Parcel-gilding of ornaments also becomes almost the rule during the reign of Anne.