The XVIIth century, which at its outset showed little progress towards a classic style, saw the establishment of matured Renaissance architecture in England, mainly owing to the genius of two great architects, Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren.
Inigo Jones (1573-1652) travelled and studied in Italy and was influenced especially by the work of Palladio (1518-80). Both in wall panelling oak panelling design and planning, he made a complete break with tradition and introduced architectural system, based on the Palladian standard of proportion, and the solid rectangular block type of plan with no central court. The Banqueting Hall, Whitehall (1622)—all that was completed of a scheme for an immense palace, for which Jones' nephew John Webb is chiefly responsible—is an example of Italian design which profoundly affected coming architectural developments.
Christopher Wren (1632-1723) had his opportunity in the re-building which followed the Great Fire. Gathering ideas from contemporary work in Italy, France and Holland, his inventive and individual genius consolidated an essentially national style. A school of design, directly influenced by Italy in wall panelling oak panelling designs, was flourishing in Holland—a country with which England had long had considerable intercourse—and to this source can be traced Wren's brick style and the sash window which is essential to it. The greater part of Wren's work in London was concerned with ecclesiastical building, but he encouraged a characteristic type of English country house based on the compact plan favoured by Inigo Jones. Numerous town and smaller country houses built in the first half of the XVIIIth century follow this plan, which is rectangular, with a central doorway opening into the hall—now definitely an entrance vestibule (Diagram XX). Not infrequently a half-basement provides servants' quarters, and the principal entrance is reached by a flight of external steps. The roofs are hipped and without gables, and dormer windows take the place of gable windows. The cornice at the eaves, often of wood and sometimes broken by a central pediment, is characteristic. Chimney stacks are arranged symmetrically and no house in either town or country was considered to be complete without some beautifully wrought iron-work in the form of gates, railings, lamp holders and torch extinguishers.
New park, Surrey, In The Early XVIIIth Century
House Front and Plan. Mompesson House.
The Close, Salisbury Eve Manor, Herefordshire
Brick, popularised by Dutch influence for an essentially homely type of house, was skilfully used, the diagonal lines of the Tudor " diapered " brickwork being superseded by an even distribution of dark " headers," and the rubbed brickwork was often carved. Stone districts remained faithful to their own material, and Portland stone-first used by Inigo Jones-was preferred by Wren for his larger buildings. Stone quoins and window dressings were usual even in brick houses. The characteristic sash windows, always symmetrically disposed, had stout frames and bars of wood which were painted white. The entrance doorway has invariably a formal classic treatment wall panelling oak panelling designs with flanking columns or pilasters, entablature, and a pediment, either triangular, segmental or " broken." (Diagram XX.) First built of stone, the heads of doorways were later made of wood with a protective lead covering.
In internal decoration, the elaborate detail of Elizabethan and Jacobean work gave way to a dignified and formal treatment. wall panelling oak panelling designs, commonly of oak, covered the walls from floor to ceiling. Panels became larger and their arrangement followed studied principles of proportion. A horizontal moulding, about three feet from the floor, usually formed a dividing line between the low wide dado panels and the tall upper panels which finished at the ceiling with a cornice of wood or plaster. Panel mouldings were bold and usually of the " bolection " type with considerable projection. Doorways and fireplaces were emphasised in the general scheme by their rich treatment which allowed of bold mouldings-often carved with running ornament-shields (Page 21), and festoons from the wood carvers' workshops. Above the surrounding architrave of doorways was an overdoor consisting of frieze and cornice, with or without a pediment. The door itself-sometimes only two-panelled in the late xvixth century-was later divided into six or eight smaller panels. The fireplace opening, no longer arched, was framed with a bold marble or stone moulding, a frieze and cornice forming a mantel-shelf ; the upper stage, usually designed for a central picture with a frame of enriched mouldings, was finished with cornice and pediment. The angle fireplace was a pleasing innovation of Charles II's reign.
The staircase, now often in a central position and sometimes lighted from a central lantern (Page 25), was imposingly treated; broad straight flights continued to be used, but the changes in detail from their Elizabethan prototypes are marked. Massive newel posts-without the tall terminals-and handrail, are still in vogue, also turned balusters and occasionally elaborate scrollwork balustrades. With these Renaissance newels the handrails and balusters were given a lighter treatment, the outer " string " disappearing and the balusters resting on the steps with the handrail " ramped " at each turn of the stairs.
A new type of plaster ceiling was introduced in the mid XVIIth century and, in place of Jacobean intricacies, the surface was divided into few and comparatively large compartments by ribs which formed circular, oval and rectangular panels enriched with classic ornament, some of the flat surfaces often being used as a ground for decorative ornament. After the Restoration, treatment became more naturalistic ; leaves, flowers and fruit, modelled in high relief and still arranged on geometrical lines show a freshness of treatment that is not found in the work of the middle and end of the XVIIIth century.