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In the illustration of a child's chair, which is said to have been actually used by Cromwell, can be seen an example of carved oak of this time; it was lent to the writer by its present owner, in whose family it was an heirloom since one of his ancestors married the Protector's daughter. The ornament has no particular style, and it may be taken for granted that the period of the Commonwealth was not marked by any progress in decorative art. The above illustration, however, proves that there were exceptions to the prevalent Puritan objection to figure ornament. In one of Mrs. S.C. Hall's papers, "Pilgrimages to English Shrines," contributed in 1849 to "The Art Journal," she describes the interior of the house which was built for Bridget, the Protector's daughter, who married General Ireton. The handsome oak staircase had the newels surmounted by carved figures, representing different grades of men in the General's army—a captain, common soldier, piper, drummer, etc, etc., while the spaces between the balustrades were filled in with devices emblematical of warfare, the ceiling being decorated in the fashion of the period. At the time Mrs. Hall wrote, the house bore Cromwell's name and the date 1630.

We may date from the Commonwealth the more general use of chairs; people sat as they chose, and no longer regarded the chair as the lord's place. A style of chair, which we still recognise as Cromwellian, was also largely imported from Holland about this time—plain square backs and seats covered with brown leather, studded with brass nails. The legs, which are now generally turned with a spiral twist, were in Cromwell's time plain and simple.

The residence of Charles II. abroad, had accustomed him and his friends to the much more luxurious furniture of France and Holland. With the Restoration came a foreign Queen, a foreign Court, French manners, and French literature. Cabinets, chairs, tables, and couches, were imported into England from the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Portugal; and our craftsmen profited by new ideas and new patterns, and what was of equal consequence, an increased demand for decorative articles of furniture. The King of Portugal had ceded Bombay, one of the Portuguese Indian stations, to the new Queen, and there is a chair of this Indo-Portuguese work, carved in ebony, now in the museum at Oxford, which was given by Charles II. either to Elias Ashmole or to Evelyn: the illustration on the next page shews all the details of the carving. Another woodcut, on a smaller scale, represents a similar chair grouped with a settee of a like design, together with a small folding chair which Mr. G.T. Robinson, in his article on "Seats," has described as Italian, but which we take the liberty of pronouncing Flemish, judging by one now in the South Kensington Museum.

In connection with this Indo-Portuguese furniture, it would seem that spiral turning became known and fashionable in England during the reign of Charles II., and in some chairs of English make, which have come under the writer's notice, the legs have been carved to imitate the effect of spiral turning—an amount of superfluous labour which would scarcely have been incurred, but for the fact that the country house-carpenter of this time had an imported model, which he copied, without knowing how to produce by the lathe the effect which had just come into fashion. There are, too, in some illustrations in "Shaw's Ancient Furniture," some lamp-holders, in which this spiral turning is overdone, as is generally the case when any particular kind of ornament comes into vogue.

Settee And Chair. In carved ebony, part of Indo-Portuguese suite at Penshurst Place, with Flemish folding chair. Period: Charles II.
Carved Ebony Chair of Indo-portuguese Work, Given by Charles II. to Elias Ashmole, Esq. (In the Museum at Oxford).

Probably the illustrated suite of furniture at Penshurst Place, which comprises thirteen pieces, was imported about this time; two of the smaller chairs appear to have their original cushions, the others have been lately re-covered by Lord de l'Isle and Dudley. The spindles of the backs of two of the chairs are of ivory: the carving, which is in solid ebony, is much finer on some than on others.

We gather a good deal of information about the furniture of this period from the famous diary of Evelyn. He thus describes Hampton Court Palace, as it appeared to him at the time of its preparation for the reception of Catherine of Braganza, the bride of Charles II., who spent the royal honeymoon in this historic building, which had in its time sheltered for their brief spans of favour the six wives of Henry VIII. and the sickly boyhood of Edward VI.:—

"It is as noble and uniform a pile as Gothic architecture can make it. There is incomparable furniture in it, especially hangings designed by Raphael, very rich with gold. Of the tapestries I believe the world can show nothing nobler of the kind than the stories of Abraham and Tobit.11 ... The Queen's bed was an embroidery of silver on crimson velvet, and cost £8,000, being a present made by the States of Holland when his majesty returned. The great looking-glass and toilet of beaten massive gold were given by the Queen Mother. The Queen brought over with her from Portugal such Indian cabinets as had never before been seen here."

Evelyn wrote of course before Wren made his Renaissance additions to the Palace.

After the great fire which occurred in 1666, and destroyed some 13,000 houses and no less than 80 churches, Sir Christopher Wren was given an opportunity, unprecedented in history, of displaying his power of design and reconstruction. Writing of this great architect, Macaulay says, "The austere beauty of the Athenian portico, the gloomy sublimity of the Gothic arcade, he was, like most of his contemporaries, incapable of emulating, and perhaps incapable of appreciating; but no man born on our side of the Alps has imitated with so much success the magnificence of the palace churches of Italy. Even the superb Louis XIV. has left to posterity no work which can bear a comparison with St. Paul's."

Wren's great masterpiece was commenced in 1675, and completed in 1710, and its building therefore covers a period of 35 years, carrying us through the reigns of James II., William III. and Mary, and well on to the end of Anne's. The admirable work which he did during this time, and which has effected so much for the adornment of our Metropolis, had a marked influence on the ornamental woodwork of the second half of the seventeenth century: in the additions which he made to Hampton Court Palace, in Bow Church, in the hospitals of Greenwich and of Chelsea, there is a sumptuousness of ornament in stone and marble, which shew the influence exercised on his mind by the desire to rival the grandeur of Louis XIV.; the Fountain Court at Hampton being in direct imitation of the Palace of Versailles. The carved woodwork of the choir of St. Paul's, with fluted columns supporting a carved frieze; the richly carved panels, and the beautiful figure work on both organ lofts, afford evidence that the oak enrichments followed the marble and stone ornament. The swags of fruit and flowers, the cherubs' heads with folded wings, and other details in Wren's work, closely resemble the designs executed by Gibbons, whose carving is referred to later on.

It may be mentioned here that amongst the few churches in the city which escaped the great fire, and contain woodwork of particular note, are St. Helen's, Bishopgate, and the Charterhouse Chapel, which contain the original pulpits of about the sixteenth century.

The famous Dr. Busby, who for 55 years was head master of Westminster School, was a great favourite of King Charles, and a picture painted by Sir Peter Lely, is said to have been presented to the Doctor by His Majesty; it is called "Sedes Busbiana." Prints from this old picture are scarce, and the writer is indebted to Mr. John C. Thynne for the loan of his copy, from which the illustration is taken. The portrait in the centre, of the Pedagogue aspiring to the mitre, is that of Dr. South, who succeeded Busby, and whose monument in Westminster Abbey is next to his. The illustration is interesting, as although it may not have been actually taken from a chair itself, it shews a design in the mind of a contemporary artist.

Of the Halls of the City Guilds, there is none more quaint, and in greater contrast to the bustle of the neighbourhood, than the Hall of the Brewers' Company, in Addle Street, City. This was partially destroyed, like most of the older Halls, by the Great Fire, but was one of the first to be restored and refurnished. In the kitchen are still to be seen the remains of an old trestle and other relics of an earlier period, but the hall or dining room, and the Court room, are complete, with very slight additions, since the date of their interior equipment in 1670 to 1673. The Court room has a richly carved chimney-piece in oak, nearly black with age, the design of which is a shield with a winged head, palms, and swags of fruit and flowers, while on the shield itself is an inscription, stating that this room was wainscoted by Alderman Knight, master of the Company and Lord Mayor of the City of London, in the year 1670. The room itself is exceedingly quaint, with its high wainscoting and windows on the opposite side to the fireplace, reminding one of the port-holes of a ship's cabin, while the chief window looks out on to the old-fashioned garden, giving the beholder altogether a pleasing illusion, carrying him back to the days of Charles II.

The chief room or Hall is still more handsomely decorated with carved oak of this time. The actual date, 1673, is over the doorway on a tablet which bears the names, in the letters of the period, of the master, "James Reading, Esq.," and the wardens, "Mr. Robert Lawrence," "Mr. Samuel Barber," and "Mr. Henry Sell."

The names of other masters and wardens are also written over the carved escutcheons of their different arms, and the whole room is one of the best specimens in existence of the oak carving of this date. At the western end is the master's chair, of which by the courtesy of Mr. Higgins, clerk to the Company, we are able to give an illustration on p. 115—the shield-shaped back, the carved drapery, and the coat-of-arms with the company's motto, are all characteristic features, as are also the Corinthian columns and arched pediments, in the oak decoration of the room. The broken swan-necked pediment, which surmounts the cornice of the room over the chair, is probably a more recent addition, this ornament having come in about 30 years later.

There are also the old dining tables and benches; these are as plain and simple as possible. In the court room, is a table, which was formerly in the Company's barge, with some good inlaid work in the arcading which connects the two end standards, and some old carved lions' feet; the top and other parts have been renewed. There is also an old oak fire-screen of about the end of the seventeenth century.

Another city hall, the interior woodwork of which dates from just after the Great Fire, is that of the Stationers' Company, in Ave Maria Lane, close to Ludgate Hill. Mr. Charles Robert Rivington, the present clerk to the Company, has written a pamphlet, full of very interesting records of this ancient and worshipful corporation, from which the following paragraph is a quotation:—"The first meeting of the court after the fire was held at Cook's Hall, and the subsequent courts, until the hall was re-built, at the Lame Hospital Hall, i.e., St. Bartholomew's Hospital. In 1670 a committee was appointed to re-build the hall; and in 1674 the Court agreed with Stephen Colledge (the famous Protestant joiner, who was afterwards hanged at Oxford in 1681) to wainscot the hall 'with well-seasoned and well-matched wainscot, according to a model delivered in for the sum of £300.' His work is now to be seen in excellent condition."

The Master's Chair. (Hall of the Brewers' Company.)

Mr. Rivington read his paper to the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society in 1881; and the writer can with pleasure confirm the statement as to the condition, in 1892, of this fine specimen of seventeenth century work. Less ornate and elaborate than the Brewers' Hall, the panels are only slightly relieved with carved mouldings; but the end of the room, or main entrance, opposite the place of the old daïs (long since removed), is somewhat similar to the Brewers', and presents a fine architectural effect, which will be observed in the illustration on p. 117.




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