Chapter IX

Wood Panellings and Mantels.

HE wainscotting of the walls of rooms, in secular houses, with wood, appears to be an innovation of the later years of the fifteenth century. It is difficult to date any woodwork other than by its decorative features, and it is, therefore, only possible to say that the earliest types of wainscotting consist of narrow vertical boards, overlapping on their edges, or " clinker-built,"- -to use the shipwright's term,—fastened to the walls with large clout-headed nails. This clinker-boarding is seldom of more than dado-height and usually has a half-round or simple moulded capping (see Figs. 266 and 267).

The next stage in the evolution is a framing of styles and rails, tenoned, mortised and pinned at the joints, with panels fixed in grooves. In the first examples of this kind there are top and bottom, but no intermediate rails, and the panels are moulded on their face, with either an embryonic or an actual linen-folding (see Fig. 260). From this to the small panel, with intermediate rails, is a rapid step, and the pattern of the linenfold develops at the same time.

It may be worth while to speculate as to the reasons why oak panellings make their appearance at such a late stage in the history of English woodwork as almost the end of the fifteenth century, and why they begin with crude clinker-boardings, evoh ing, only at a later stage, into properly framed panellings. It is impossible to imagine that they introduce the tenoned-and-mortised framing into English carpentry ; we know, especially in the case of Church woodwork, that framing was known and practised centuries before. Thus, in the door, Fig. 256, which is not later than about 1320, the outer framing is constructed with tenons and mortises, secured to the vertical back-boarding with large iron nails. This example has more the appearance of a section of panelling than of a door ; with the necessary duplication, a room could easily have been wainscotted with the repetition of this pattern. Framed panellings, therefore, were potential possibilities as early as the first years of the fourteenth century, yet none appear to have been made for at least a century and a half afterwards. There must be a reason for this, and, in all probability, there are several.

In the first place, the ecclesiastical establishments led the way in luxury and refinement, until the first quarter of the sixteenth century, and it is in clerical houses

that one would look for early examples of panellings, nothing between the vast refectory, or nave, and the

7 ft. 6 ins. high by 4 ft. ii ins. wide. Late thirteenth or fourteenth century.

7 ft. 6 ins. high by 4 ft. ii ins. wide. Late thirteenth or fourteenth century.

Victoria an 1 Albert Museum.

But here, as a rule, there was small room or closet. In the former, with walls of stone, often enriched with columns or arcadings, panellings would be impossible, and in the latter, a much more decorative and efficient wall-covering was at hand, in tapestries or Arras hangings. Had the art of the tapestry-weaver not been so appreciated, and fostered, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, there is little doubt that panellings would have made a much earlier appearance than they actually did.

From the will of William of Wykeham we get an idea of the furnishings of an opulent and luxury-loving prelate at the close of the fourteenth century. To the Bishop of London, Robert Braybrooke, he leaves the whole suite of the tapestry hangings from his palace at Winchester, and there is no doubt that the walls of all the principal rooms, including the bedchamber, were hung in this manner. So much for the high clergy of this date.

Ro3ral palaces were similarly furnished, and there is a great probability that

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