The English Vernacular Architectural Periods and Its Influence on the Design Criteria of Wall Panelling Oak Panelling

Such were the precursors of our later farmhouses and cottages. As for the manor-houses, it was seldom that the owners of large estates inhabited any one of them for long at a time. While in theory the lord of the manor was in complete control of his estate, administering its affairs and dispensing justice in his own court (where, incidentally, from early times the jury was composed of villeins), in practice these duties were generally carried out by a bailiff, often with the help of a reeve appointed by the tenants to control their affairs. Lack of supervision led to frequent hardships among the personnel of the manor, and complaints against unjust stewards were not rare. It was a more satisfactory arrangement when the lord maintained a continual progress from one of his manors to another, followed by his retinue and a packhorse train loaded with his few essential household goods, such as tapestries and glass windows. When the resources of one manor were depleted, the party would move on to the next.

Petworth House , Sussex

Petworth House , Sussex

As regards the buildings themselves, the Normans knew of only one method of spanning a large floor area, and this they adopted both for their ecclesiastical structures and for the more ambitious of their manor-houses. The Norman hall thus assumed much the same form as the church, with a nave separated from side aisles by pillars supporting round arches. It was only in this way that a large quadrangular space could be covered.

The finest domestic example surviving of this construction is the hall of Oakham Castle in Rutland (I2), built by Walkelin du Ferrers about 1I8o. It measures internally 65 feet by 43 feet, and the beauty of the design and fineness of the detail make it one of the most splendid works of the Transition from the Norman to the Early English wall panelling oak panelling style. A double line of pillars with elaborately carved capitals supports the arches on which rested the beams of the roof, but the latter has been entirely renewed. An Inquisition of 1340 mentions, in addition to the hall, four chambers and one kitchen which have disappeared. There is no sign of a fireplace, and the fire must have been in the centre of the hall, with a louvre in the roof above for the escape of the smoke. The building was not fortified, and the lovely double lancet windows, divided by shafts, would have been most unsuitable for defence. The whole site, how­ever, was surrounded by a bank and moat, and it indicates an improvement in the state of the country that these were considered sufficient guard against molestation.

The building commonly known as King John's House at Warneford in Hampshire is another but very ruinous example of this form of structure, though it dates from a good many years later. The pillars are 25 feet high, and there are clear indications that a wooden screen, which became an invariable feature for the centuries following, was erected across the west end of it.

The great hall at Winchester Castle (io), built on the same plan, was begun in I zzz and completed about twelve years later. It is far larger than any previous domestic building, being no less than III feet long and 55 feet wide : the aisles are formed of clusters of slender shafts supporting pointed arches which span a space of I9j feet. Forty years had seen a sur­prising development from the single pillars and round arches of Oakham. The double lancets with transoms, and a pierced quatrefoil above, are the earliest extant examples of this style of tracery, but somewhat similar windows occur at Stokesay Castle in Shropshire (I3), which dates in part from a few years later. During the next century (circa 1340) windows of the same form, but with lighter and more graceful tracery, were incorporated in the design of the great hall at Penshurst Place in Kent.

Simultaneously with these halls, a more modest type of house was making its appearance, consisting of a simple parallelogram divided into two storeys, the lower a stable or cellar, the upper a wall panelling oak panelling living-room. A good example of this arrangement is the so-called Norman House at Christchurch, Hampshire, which dates from the second half of the twelfth century. Here there is a basement lighted by narrow slits in the walls, while on the first floor is the hall, a large room with windows on three sides and a fireplace surmounted by a circular chimneystack. The floor, which has disappeared, was probably of wood, and the roof open-timbered. The manor­house at Boothby Pagnall near Grantham, which prob­ably dates from a few years later, consists similarly of an undercroft and upper chamber, here approached by an outside staircase (I i). Another simple form of early house was a long single-storied building, primarily a stable, of which one end was boarded off for living. Here it may be added that the term "hall" was by no means confined to the principal room of a fortified manor-house, but might equally well be applied to the living-room of a cottage. Since it was always the most important part of the building, however, it is hardly surprising that the whole house often came to be called "The Hall."

The Moot, Downtown, Wiltshire

The Moot, Downtown, Wiltshire

Little is known of the first houses in towns, but judging from the frequent and devastating fires that took place it may be assumed that they were mostly built of wood and thatched with rushes. In Lincoln, however, there may still be seen on Steep Hill two stone houses dating from approxi­mately 1150, one known as the Jew's House. They have been badly mutilated, but some interesting features survive. Both contained originally one room to each storey, the upper ones having fireplaces and being lit by round-headed windows divided into two lights by a central shaft, which can still be seen. From FitzStephen's account of London, it would appear that the two major urban evils at this time were fires and drunkenness. To avoid the former, partition walls of stone between houses were introduced; in FitzAlwyne's Assize it is mentioned that these were of freestone, 3 feet thick and 16 feet high. It is not recorded, however, what measures were introduced to combat the latter.

In 1716 Henry III came to the throne, and his long reign, extending over fifty-six years, saw a remarkable increase in the prosperity of the country which is clearly reflected in the development of domestic architecture. Until this period com­fort, according to present standards, had been practically unknown; from the thirteenth century onwards came a gradual development of the more civilised side of living. Probably the most important advance in building methods at this time was the evolution of the open-timber roof, whereby it became possible to cover a considerably wider floor area in a single span. This construction, which became highly developed during the following centuries, was a feature unique to English architecture. The roof of St. Mary's Hospital at Chichester is one of the earliest secular examples of it, and dates from the latter part of the. thirteenth century.

Winchester  Castle

Winchester  Castle

The king himself led the way in improving the standard of comfort. He possessed eighteen houses scattered about the country, from Southampton to Newcastle-on-Tyne, from Bristol to Rochester; of these, the Tower of London, West­minster and Winchester were perhaps the most important. The Liberate Rolls contain an immense number of instruc­tions for the improvement of wall panelling oak panelling these houses, which had been completely primitive up to this time; and by the close of Henry's reign they must have reached a state far in advance of any of those of his subjects. Fireplaces were ordered to be built, windows enlarged and glazed, floors boarded and privies better arranged. Little was said about the strengthening of fortifications. Rooms were usually to be wall panelling oak panelling wainscoted in wood, and at Windsor Henry ordered his chamber to be "borded like a ship". Green was the favourite colour for the painting of wainscot or walls, and sometimes figure-pieces were introduced in place of diaper patterns. Edward FitzOtho, keeper of the King's Works at Westminster, was instructed to erect a chimney (i.e. fireplace) in the Queen's Chamber and "on it to cause to be portrayed a figure of winter, which as well by its sad countenance as by other miserable distortions of the body, may be deservedly likened to Winter itself". But decorations usually struck a happier note, and gold stars, roses or, as at Clarendon, "a border of heads of kings and queens" were less harrowing suggestions. The most elaborate decoration was always reserved for the chapels, and there are innumerable orders for the painting of religious figures and "histories" from the Old and New Testaments.

Up to this period, the floor of the hall had consisted merely of beaten earth strewn with rushes, on which the retainers, both male and female, slept. This part of the building came to be known as the "marsh", which suggests that the raised wooden dais at the end of the room, on which stood the high table, was something of a necessity; and one can specu­late on the reason for the order that the door of the hall at Winchester was to be sufficiently enlarged to allow for the entrance of a cart. During the thirteenth century, however, the manufacture of tiles for flooring, which had probably survived precariously in England from the time of the Romans, was considerably developed, and Henry ordered the whole of the hall at Winchester to be paved in this way. The decorative design of tiles, for ecclesiastical use or otherwise, became not one of the least attractive branches of medieval handicraft.

Henry's Liberate Rolls specify for kitchens to be enlarged and new butteries, seweries and larders to be built. Windows were to be glazed with clear glass and made to open, more convenient staircases were to be inserted, while new tables and benches were ordered and, very occasionally, a chair. The instructions for the making of privies were explicit. The usual form was a deep walled pit, which must have been an unsatisfactory arrangement, or, `where there was a moat, a drain might descend into it below the surface of the water.... At the Tower of London the Constable was ordered to "cause the drain of our private chamber to be made in the fashion of a hollow column". This, presumably, emptied into the Thames; we can perhaps understand the medieval reluctance to drink water.

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Queen Anne and Georgian: 18th Century

The Regency Style (about 1800-1837)

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