The Rise of the Architect Architectural Periods and its Influence on the Design Criteria of Wall Panelling Oak Panelling Circa (1550 To 1720)

AMONG the foreign wall panelling oak panelling craftsmen lured to these shores by the lavish offers of Henry VIII was one John of Padua. No surname has ever been assigned to him and he would remain a nebulous, almost mythical figure were not two facts known about him. Firstly he was appointed "Deviser of His Majesty's Buildings" by Henry VIII in 1544, and secondly he was a domestic architect in the same sense as we now use the word. Several extant houses have been credited to him, Longleat in Wiltshire, which was begun in 1567, more persistently, if probably no more correctly, than most. Although his actual achievements remain uncertain, he holds the distinction of being the first domestic architect, with the possible exception of Holbein, to practise in England whose name has come down to us.

John of Padua was patronised by the Protector Somerset for whom he designed Old Somerset House, which stood on the site of the present building of that name. A view of it survives among the drawings of John Thorpe, now in the Soane Museum. Its scholarly facade, sparsely furnished with columns and pediments, must have astonished a generation which had previously regarded the decorative riot of Nonsuch as its criterion of taste.

It cannot be said, however, that either Holbein or John of Padua left any lasting mark on English architecture; they founded no school nor created any immediate break in Tudor tradition. The rise of the Renaissance style in England did not follow, as might have been expected, the sixteenth-century influx of Italian craftsmen; it was not, indeed, directly from Italy that we derived our first main impulse towards wall; panelling oak panelling classicism, but from the Low Countries, with which our commercial and sympathetic ties were already strong. The break from Gothic came slowly, and the Flemish Renaissance style as first rendered in England would have horrified any contem­porary Italian architect by its clumsy exuberance and continued confusion with the traditional vernacular. Nevertheless, in little more than half a century the eccentricities of the late­Elizabethan builders had developed into the pure but intensely individual conceptions of Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren.

The spread of wealth and prosperity that had continued unabated during the reigns of the Tudors reached its culmin­tion with Elizabeth. No longer was the new affluence confined to the aristocratic classes; from them it percolated through every stratum of society, even the humblest sharing to some degree in the plenty. There was a feeling of Spring in England ; new ideas and impulses were wafted like breezes from the Continent, and a new zest for knowledge, particularly in the spheres of art and literature, was making itself manifest. For the first time it became fairly usual for members of the upper classes to have a critical and constructive knowledge of wall panelling oak panelling architecture, a knowledge that was to become an essential part of the educated man's equipment for two centuries. This expertise in the layman was largely responsible for the appearance of the trained architect in the first instance. With the later and more complete reliance of the layman on the architect in matters of taste, the standard of knowledge in­evitably declined. By the mid-nineteenth century, although enthusiasm for building remained disastrously strong, the critical faculty of the public at large had become almost entirely atrophied.

Horham Hall, Essex

Horham Hall, Essex

There are many indications of the new desire of Englishmen to increase their knowledge of Continental buildings. As early as 1568 Lord Burleigh, with thoughts of the great house he was soon to build near Stamford, wrote to Elizabeth's ambassador in Paris asking him to procure one of Philibert de L'Orme's cahiers, and in 1611, Robert Peake of Holborn issued as a fine black-letter folio The First Book of Architecture "made by Sebastian Serly, translated out of Italian into Dutch and out of Dutch into English". Incidentally, the "translations" of the book were somewhat analogous to those of the Renais­sance style as it found its first expression in England. Serly, or Serlio, was a native of Bologna, and produced this large work in five volumes between 1537 and 1547. He had drunk at the fountain-head of Vitruvius and made meticulous measurements of ancient buildings, and his books were a mine of information and inspiration for the English builders, who must have made liberalif inaccurate use of his detailed drawings, although no actual instances can be traced.


The Rise of the Architect

Another author who did much to bring the classical style to the notice of the English public was Sir Henry Wotton, traveller, diplomat and scholar (1568-1639). Although never more than an "amateur" of building in the best sense, his Elements of Architecture, based on a study of the works of Vitruvius, Palladio and Philibert de L'Orme, show not only an enthusiastic appreciation of the classical style but a practical understanding of the essentials of domestic building far in advance of his age.

He dwells firstly on the care that must be taken in choosing a suitable situation or "posture" for a house. It must not be "subject to any foggy noisomness, from fens or marshes neer adjoining", "not indigested, for want of Sun: not unexercised for want of wind". "Malign Influences" which give rise to "Earth-quakes, Contagions, Prodigious births" should not be entirely disregarded. He finds that "vast and indefinite views" are condemned by good authors. Then a shrewd social, or, as he calls it, "political" hint: do not "build too near a great neighbour as it will mean living on Earth, as Mercury is in the Heavens ... ever in obscurity under brighter beams than his own". He ends this subject by urging that builders should be as circumspect as wooers, and let it never be said of one's house as it was of Mytelene, "a town, in truth, finely built, but foolishly planted".

Then for planning. He compares a house to the human body and comes to the conclusion that the same principles apply to both in that "the Plan of every part is to be determined by the Use"-which, no doubt, was a new idea in Elizabethan building. On the question of aspect he seems a little arbitrary "the principal chambers of delight, all Studies and Libraries, be towards the east : for the Morning is a Friend to the Muses. All offices that require heat, as Kitchens, Stillatories, would be Meriodional. Cellars, pantries ... to the north. To the same side likewise all that are appointed to gentle motion, as Galleries." He notes that suitable aspects vary in different countries and realises that "a good Parlour in Egypt, would perchance make a good cellar in England".

Next materials. The qualities of various woods are very sensibly discussed and the foibles of some architects in relation to them-how Leon Battista Alberti insists on all the timber in a house being cut from the same forest, all the stone from the same quarry; while Philibert de L'Orme recommends that the "Lyme" or mortar should be made out of the same stone as the rest of the building. There follow some practical hints on the making of bricks. Occasionally he makes mistakes. In dealing with pillars he denounces the practice of making them swell in the middle, "as if they were sick of some Tympany, or Dropsie", although he owns that even the great master Vitruvius advises it. With staircases he is on safer ground when he suggests that "they should have a very liberal light, against all Casualty of Slips, and Falls"; "that to avoid Encounters, and besides to gratify the beholder, the whole staircase have no nigard Latitude" ; and that the steps should never be more than half a foot in height "for our Leggs do labour more in Elevation than in Distention". Then "Touching Conducts for the Suillage", which he recognises "for the health of the inhabitants, are as considerable, and perhaps more than the rest", he suggests that where there is no running water drains should be relegated to the "most remote, and lowest, and thickest part of the foundation, with secret vents passing up through the walls like a tunnel, to the wilde Air aloft". This is one of the many ideas he obtained from contemporary Italian usage.

Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire

Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire

He was strongly averse to the Italian wall panelling oak panelling system of placing the doors of reception rooms opposite one another, so that when all were open a long vista was obtained, as it "doth put an intolerable servitude upon all chambers save the inmost". But his disapproval was in vain, for this arrangement was almost universally employed in the great English houses of the following centuries.

It does not appear, however, that Wotton was ever enabled to put his unusual knowledge and sound sense at the service of any building. But that such a book should have been written and probably fairly widely circulated shows the much wider appeal of the technicalities of architecture at this time. Dr. Andrew Borde's famous advice on site and disposition of rooms affords a parallel instance.

Another contemporary publication was The Metamorphoses of Ajax; "a Claocinean Satire", compiled by Sir John Haring­ton, Elizabeth's wayward but disarming godson, in 1594. In it the author describes in detail a water closet which he has designed and erected at his house at Kelston near Bath, which was afterwards copied at the Queen's Palace at Richmond. The invention comprised all the essentials of the system employed to-day, but its hygienic principles held no attractions for the Elizabethans and the innovation was soon forgotten, not to be resurrected for more than two centuries.

The names of specific architects were coming to be attached to new houses, but how far their functions embraced the conception and realisation of the completed plan remains

uncertain. Robert Lyminge, for example, is generally credited with the design and construction of Hatfield House for the Earl of Salisbury, which was begun about 1607 and completed four years later; but from the Hatfield papers it would appear that several other wall panelling oak panelling master-craftsmen were employed, equal if not superior in status to Lyminge. The charge of the works was in the hands of Thomas Wilson, who was general super­visor and paymaster. He was assisted by Simon Basil (Surveyor of the Royal Works prior to Inigo Jones), and together they shared the responsibility for seeing that the work was kept within the estimate of L8,5oo. This originally had been drawn up by Lyminge, who in a letter mentions that he is making an elevation for the gallery; but nowhere does he claim the authorship of the complete design. His exact connection with Blickling Hall in Norfolk is similarly uncertain, though in the church register of that parish he is boldly described as "the architect and builder of Blickling Hall". Similarly, Robert Smithson is described in his epitaph in the parish church as "architect and surveyor unto the most worthy House of Wollaton".

As has been seen, the office of architect was in some degree a foreign importation; yet it should be realised that the gulf between the medieval curios operi at the dawn of the sixteenth century and the Renaissance designer-architect at the close of the seventeenth was not such a wide one. As the Middle Ages drew to their close, and the contract system, by which a builder bound himself to execute a given job within a given time and for a given sum, often supplying labour, cartage and materials, arose in its completeness, the working wall panelling oak panelling master was gradually superseded by the independent contractor, who would appoint a custos operi, or surveyor, to supervise the whole work in its various grades-masonry, carpentry, smithery and the rest. Both Lyminge and Smithson probably belonged to this class of surveyors, soon to be dignified by the name of architects. But the function of the contracting master-mason continued for long essentially the same, and there is no vast difference between the fourteenth-century Henry Yevele, the builder of the Westminster nave, and such men as Strong and the Kempsters who worked with Wren at St. Paul's. The latter were still perfectly capable of fur­nishing a sound design if required, and records exist of their doing so.

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