Wall Panelling and Oak Panelling Design Criteria Through the Last 500 Years 


One of the forms of window popularly associated with the Palladian revival years of the eighteenth century was the 'Venetian window', which we have referred to in its introduction to English architecture by Inigo Jones. He had looked back in particular to Scamozzi, whose Idea della Architectura universale (1615) contains a group of palazzi with this central motif, derived from an earlier prototype by Serlio. Isaac Ware, in his comprehensive treatise A Complete Body of Architecture (1756), wrote that Venetian windows were of 'a kind calculated for shew, and very pompous in their nature; and, when executed with judgment, of extreme elegance'." Although there was no example of a Venetian window in the first volume of Colen Camp­bell's Vitruvius Britannicus (1715), it was soon in use in the Vanbrugh­Hawksmoor group and in the Burlington circle, and by about 1717-8 several examples can be cited.'- In particular, its use on the south front of Campbell's Houghton Hall, Norfolk (1722), led to its repeat, with modifications, at William Kent's Holkham Hall, Norfolk (1734), Henry Flitcroft's Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire (1747), and at Croome Court, Worcestershire, c. 1751-2, designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. The appeal of the Venetian window continued and influenced designs by the strictly Palladian Isaac Ware at Wrotham Park, Middlesex (c. 1754), and even by Robert Adam on the south front of the Register House at Edinburgh (1789).

Lytes Cary Somerset

Lytes Cary, Somerset, From the East

The symmetry which this principal feature wall panelling oak panelling imposed on a room or staircase-hall meant that other windows were arranged with the Venetian one at the centre of the range. Glazing bar thicknesses were also important. Letters written to the Earl of Strafford in 1713-14 by the York joiner William Thornton (1670-1721);0 are filled with such details: '& that it is ye same thickness I have done for Mr Bourchier and others wch hath proved to turn well better than those of thinner stuff'. This is valuable confirmation in an otherwise humdrum note of Thornton's involvement in the joinery and carving for John Bourchier at Beningbrough Hall, north Yorkshire. He is listed as the architect of Beningbrough in a copy of the Builder's Dictionary leaf as before ... £17. is. Oct.' Further enrichment was given to the window shutters: 'Carving the rich ornaments in the suffits with rich raffld flowrs, Apollo's head & Glory, very rich foliage leaves. 2 ft Long 11 in wide. Six of the Above Ornaments ... £20. 14s. Od.' The 4th Duke of Bedford must have thought it money well spent.


The architects working in the Palladian years of the 1720-40 period re­introduced doorcases to important state rooms, giving them a more solid and imposing appearance by the use of large enriched mouldings. Between the wall panelling oak panelling  and the architrave of the door and its pediment there was a frieze which was usually pulvinated (that is, with a bold convex moulding) and ornamented across its width with ribboned bay or oak leaves. It was also common to flank the doors with a case against which Corinthian or Ionic columns or pilasters were set, with a shell, lion's head or Classical mask incorporated the frieze. The pediment, if broken, was often filled by a plaster bust as the double doorcase of the saloon at Holkham Hall, Norfolk.

Doors and wall panelling oak panelling were usually made in mahogany with six or eight fielded panels at varying size, edged with carved mouldings. One of these mouldings was often set vertically down the centre of the doors to give an added enrich­ment, especially when gilded. A variation was a deal door, painted white, with gilded mouldings that contrasted well with walls covered in crimson fabric or Chinese paper. These doorcases invariably had a pedimented top set on brackets above a frieze with carved swags centring on a mask-face.

 Some of the most elaborate doorcases of the 1720s, as at Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, and the Octagon Room, Orleans House, Middlesex, both designed by James Gibbs, have reclining stucco figures set nonchalantly above the pediments, an imperious touch to an already dominant feature of the room. A variation, common to the I740-50 period in particular, was for the head of the door architrave to include a moulded central tablet bearing carved foliage and a carved head. 'No ornament', according to Isaac Ware in his A Complete Body of Architecture (1756), 'was so fit as a head' and when this, or similar ornament, was coupled, as at Claydon House, Buckinghamshire, with the wild carved extravagances of the Chinese taste, done in the middle years of the century, the effect was very striking. The literary critics railed that all the world was running mad after Chinese ornaments - of pagodas, tinkling bells, obsequious mandarins and decorated parasols.


Architects of the early Georgian period, such as William Kent (in the 1720s and 1730s), often turned back to the designs of Inigo Jones. Indeed, Kent had been given the task by Lord Burlington of editing the Designs of Inigo Jones, with some Additional Designs (by Lord Burlington and himself). These were published in two volumes in 1727 and reference to them and to Isaac Ware's Designs of Inigo Jones and others (c. 1733) show how the chimneypiece designs by Jones and Webb were designed or freshly adapted. A good example is provided by the two 'continued' chimneypieces in the long gallery at Temple Newsam House, Leeds. Erected there in 1739 by the mason Robert Doe, they were a direct copy of John Vardy's Plate 36 in his book of Kent's designs issued in 1735, and based on Sir Matthew Decker's chimneypiece at his house on Richmond Green, Surrey. With canvases of classical ruins by Antonio Joli set within them, they were the perfect decoration for the 7th Viscount Irwin's new gallery, one of the finest mid­Georgian spaces in England.

The architectural forms that made up the majority of chimneypieces often gave them their name; John Crunden's The Chimneypiece Makers' Daily Assistant of 1766 showed the varieties common in the first half of the eighteenth century: (1) the architrave type, and those with (2) trussed pilasters or (3) caryatid or terminal supports or columns to bear the mantelpiece. Chimneypieces were made up of one or two storeys, being of 'simple' or 'continued' type. Thelatter, especially those of c.I728-30at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, or Clandon Park, Surrey, sculpted by John Michael Rysbrack were among the most important and were related, for maximum effect, to the wall panelling oak panelling overdoor mythological panels of the rooms they were in.

Some of the principles which allegedly governed size were also set out  in many manuals of instruction. For example, Robert Morris in his Lectureson Architecture (175 1) gave his first rule as follows:

To find the height of the opening of the chimney from any given magnitude of a room, add the length and height of the room together, and extract the square root of that sum, and hill that roof will he the height of the chimney. The breadth was established by adding the length, breadth and height of the room and extracting half the square roof of the sum the depth was one quarter of the combined height and breadth of the chimney. Sir William Chambers was more general in his dimentions and preferred two chimney pieces in large rooms, 'regularly placed, at equal distances from the centre of the wall in which they are both placed'. The farther the chimney­pieces were from a door the better, and they were rarely placed on front window walls owing to the weakening of the walls by carrying shafts as well as window openings, and the consequent appearance of the chimney on a principal elevation.

Two sculptors, among many, responsible for fine statuary marble chimneypieces were Sir Henry Cheere (1703-81) and his younger brother, John Cheere (1709-87), who was also a figure-maker and a painter. Henry Cheere's yard at Hyde Park Corner33 produced much that made a major contribution to English Rococo. His manuscript 'Book of Chimneypiece Designsr3A shows his ability to incorporate rich varied-coloured marbles in his designs, and his skills in adapting both the Classical and Gothic styles and in depicting flowers, animals and figures. Among the many examples of his work the wall panelling oak panelling design chimneypieces at Ditchley Hall, Oxfordshire, and Wallington Hall, Northumberland, are particularly fine. Naturally Cheere had his com­petitors, for example, Thomas Carter, his son, Thomas junior, and John Devall. Devall's work is seen to advantage at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire.

The younger Carter is credited with providing two massive chimneypieces with Siena marble friezes for the saloon at Uppark, Sussex, c. 1754, although there is no documentation to support this; these survived the tragic fire in August 1989 almost undamaged. Their friezes have finely modelled plaques depicting 'Romulus and Remus' and 'Androcles and the Lion'. This work for Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh was probably under the architectural supervision of James Paine, who had worked at Sir Matthew's London House, 1752-6. Paine was a consummate designer of chimneypieces, which often have slender tapered pilasters with pedimented centrepieces, as at Uppark.

Isaac Ware in his oft-quoted book of 1756, A Complete Body of Architecture,gives a long list of the plain and variegated marbles available from Italy, Spain, Egypt and from several places in England, such as Derbyshire and Devon. Festoons of flowers, trophies, foliage and key-frets were usually cut in white statuary marble and set against a coloured or variegated marble ground. Attention was, of course, paid to fitting the wall panelling and oak panelling decoration to the purpose of a given room: a vine-wreathed head or Bacchic motifs were found on chimneypieces in dining-rooms, and also many subjects drawn from Aesop's Fables." Throughout, the use of marble for chimneypieces indicated an underlying loyalty in the choice of subjects to a continuous Classical tradition. Departures from this were usually expressed in other materials - the French Rococo style in carved limewood and the revived Gothic in stone. Finally, Ware condemned any architect whose chimney­piece did not correspond to his overdoors: simple, direct advice and, alas, often ignored.

"Tudor" Architecture In Relation To Wall Panelling and Oak Panelling

Examples Of Interior Wall Panelling Oak Panelling Designs Workmanship

"Late Stuart" Architecture

At Kensington Gore City Church Wall Panelling Oak Panelling Designs Architecture

"Palladian" Wall Panelling Oak Panelling Designs Architecture

Late XVIIIth Century Wall Panelling Oak Panelling Designs Architecture

The "Regency" Style

Architecture Introduction

Roman Architecture

Byzantine Architecture

Romanesque — Anglo-Saxon

Norman Architecture

Gothic Architecture

Tudor Architecture

Modern Architecture

Rectangular Keeps

Norman Architecture

Military Architecture XIIIth & XIVth Centuries

Domestic Architecture XIVth Century


Gothic Architecture 12th-16th Centuries

'Decorated' Gothic: 14th century

'Perpendicular' Gothic: 15th century

Elizabethan and Jacobean (about 1550 - 1625)

Renaissance Architecture in England: 17th century

Queen Anne and Georgian: 18th Century

The Regency Style (about 1800-1837)

Wall Panelling and Oak Panelling Design Criteria Through The Last 500 Years

Tudor Symmetry Wall Panelling and Oak Panelling Design Criteria Through The Last 500 Years

The English House Interior

Architectural Period and Its Influence on the Design Criteria of Wall Panelling Oak Panelling

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

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

Wall Panelling and Oak Panelling Design Criteria Through the Last 500 Years