Vanbrugh provides an exotic and unexpected designs in wall panelling and oak panelling interlude in the story of English architecture, but it cannot be said that his work had any permanent influence on the course of Palladian development. Nor did Nicholas Hawksmoor (16611736), who had worked under both Wren and Vanbrugh, succeed in swinging the pendulum of taste decisively in the direction of either one of his masters, though of the buildings which he designed on his own account, both the fine London churches, such as St. Mary Wolnoth, Christ Church Spitalfields, and St. George's Bloomsbury, and the mansions, such as Easton Neston in Northamptonshire, with its high pilastered facades and deep cornice, are perhaps most reminiscent of Vanbrugh. But a third contemporary of Wren's was working on more individual lines. This was William Talman, a Dutchman, whose work enjoyed a considerable vogue in this country. Besides assisting Wren at Hampton Court, he designed Chatsworth (74) for the first Duke of Devonshire in 1687 and Dyrham Park in Gloucestershire a few years later. The former, which was twenty years in building, narrowly fails to be a masterpiece. Built of a beautiful local stone in the form of a hollow rectangle, the design has all the merits of dignity and simplicity. From a heavily rusticated lower storey pilasters rise to a cornice embellished with heraldic designs; above is a pierced parapet surmounted by stone urns. For reasons still obscure Talman placed his magnificent suite of reception rooms on the second, and top, floor of the house; thus, the upper windows are considerably larger than those below them and produce an uncomfortable effect. Further, the keystones of all the windows, particularly those of the top floor which are carved with the Cavendish crest, are so massive that they seem to weigh down the gilded sashes. For the noble rooms within there can be nothing but praise; the house contains the finest Stuart wall panelling and oak panelling suite in England. Dyrham, begun in 1698, is less ambitious both in size and design; indeed the facades rather lack inspiration, and have an urban and insipid air.
Petworth House, Sussex
At the dawn of Palladianism the planning and furnishing of houses had already undergone great changes. The traditional hall of the Middle Ages had at last been discarded, though it was to continue to make occasional and surprising appearances, as at Easton Neston, which dates from 1702, where the main features of the layout are almost medieval. The enterprising and observant Mrs. Celia Fineness, in the course of her Rides through England on a Side Saddle during the years immediately before and after 1700, describes very adequately the usual planning of a country house of that date. Her description of the "fine house of Sir George Pratt's called Coal sell" (designed as has already been observed by Sir Roger Pratt about I65o) will serve as a model. "The house is new built of stone, most of ye offices are partly under ground-kitchen, Pantry, butlery and good Callers and round a Court is all ye other offices & out houses; The entrance of ye house is an ascent of several steps into a hall, so lofty the roofs is three story’s, reaches to ye floor of ye gallery-all the walls are Curt in hollows where statues & Heads Carved finely are set, Directly fore-right Enters a large Dining room or great parlour, which has a door thorough into the garden yt. gives a visitor through ye house: within yt. is a drawing room, on ye other side another room of the same size, and backward is a little parlour all with good furniture, tapestry, Damask, etc. . . . on the tope of the stairs you enter in ye middle into a dining room, within that a Chamber on each side with two closets to each big Enough for a little bed, with chimney's convenient for a servant and for dressing rooms, one of which has a door also out into that passage and see to the back staire . . . They are all well and Genteelly furnish, damasks Chamlet and wrought beds fashionable made up. Over this runs a Gallery all through the house, and on each side several garret rooms for servants furnished very neat and Genteel, in ye middle are stairs yt lead up to the Cup low or large LAN thorn in the middle of the leads" . . . She noted that "there was few pictures in the house only over doores and Chimney's". This was a relief after Burghley, which she so admirably summed up as "Eminent for its Curiosity", where she took some exception to the paintings, "very fine paint in pictures, but they were all without Garments or very little, that was the only fault, ye immodesty of ye Pictures, Especially in h'ty Lords wall panelling and oak panelling apartments".
Burton Agnes, Yorkshire
Interior decoration during the later Stuart period was entirely the work of the architect, and the upholsterer was as yet seldom allowed to intervene. Floors were now sometimes inlaid with different coloured woods in a manner called Parquetage, and panels of inlay were introduced over fireplaces, as in the state rooms at Chatsworth. In other cases the floor was simply covered with rush matting, the carpets, brought from the East together with choice
Chinese porcelain by the ships of the East India Company, being used to drape the tables. As early as the reign of Charles I paper and leather hangings had been used as wall-coverings hung from the wall panelling and oak panelling, while the rich imported tapestries and pictures by the Continental masters or, for the most important rooms, engaged foreign artists to paint suitably stimulating scenes on the ceilings. But the more usual wall-covering, for bedrooms and sitting-rooms alike, was a simple wood panelling as a protection against cold and damp. This might be made either of oak, cedar or pine, but the latter, when used, was generally either painted a plain colour, or grained to represent oak, as in the library at Raby Castle, Durham, and the King's dining-room at Drayton House. The designs could differ considerably, but the average architect remained faithful to the large oblong panel of an earlier age. The work could be very simple, as in the dining-room at Holme Lacey in Herefordshire, which dates from about 1694, where the particularly broad panels are made up of several pieces and surrounded by a deep molding, the only relief being a chair-rail and a carved cornice. There is rather similar wainscoting in the Oak Room at Balls Park which dates from nearly fifty years earlier, but in this case the panels are much narrower. In the Balcony Room at Dyrham (circa 1698) the panels are separated by Ionic pilasters supporting a full entablature, and the whole is painted a warm brown with gilded enrichments.
In the years following the Restoration, many marbles were imported for the first time into England from Italy and Ireland, and these were used for the heavy bolection moldings placed around fireplace openings, as in the state apartments at Chatsworth. Immediately over the opening was usually an oblong mirror, and above this a picture surround :- by a
molding and raised from the plane of the wall panelling and oak panelling in the same manner as the compartments of panelling. The most elaborate decoration was confined to the plaster ceiling. Its design was generally based on a fairly formal plan, consisting, perhaps, of a large central panel in high relief surrounded by lesser geometric figures in a layout rather akin to that of a Stuart garden. Within this broad scheme a considerable license was allowed. Flowers, leaves and fruit were displayed in great opulence and abandon, and lurking among the clustered wreaths might be discovered groups of birds, as at Melton Constable in Norfolk (1687), putti, as at Brick wall in Sussex (1685), fish as (appropriately enough) at the New River Company's office (169o), or even a cartouche of musical instruments, as at Denham Place in Buckinghamshire (1693). But in an aristocratic age the most usual culmination was the crest, or occasionally the full coat of arms, of the owner.
Undoubtedly the greatest individual craftsmen of this period was Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) who, with his assistants, produced carving of a lightness and beauty never surpassed, though his naturalistic representations of flowers, fruit, birds and even lace are sometimes more remarkable for their technical virtuosity than for the quality of their design. Some of his finest work was executed for the quire of St. Paul's, but much is also to be found among the great houses of the age. The Carved Room at Petworth (81), where the swags of flowers and fruits are interspersed with musical instruments and Greek urns, is perhaps his supreme domestic achievement. Much fine carving adorns the chimney-pieces and panelling of English country houses "in the Grinling Gibbons manner", clearly only a fraction of which could have been the work of the master. It speaks much for the craftsmanship of the day that work of this standard could have been produced by what in most cases were probably no more than provincial journeymen whose names have seldom survived. One such, however, has come down to us, that of Samuel Watson, a Derbyshire man, who carried out the magnificent carving in the state-rooms at Chatsworth around 1691. I- is work has not, perhaps, the delicacy of detail of Petworth or Holme Lace;- (now removed), but the general effect at least is as rich and splendid as anything produced by Gibbons.