16th Centuty Fireplaces compared to Modern Retail | A stroll around the Petworth House
“We no longer build fireplaces for physical warmth. We build them for the warmth of the soul; we build them to dream by, to hope by, to come home by.” - Edna Ferber
The last year and a half have been gruelling for all of us, and after being cooped up inside for so long, I decided to take a short trip.
With the lockdown restrictions being lifted, The National Trust opened many of its properties. I decided to visit Petworth House and Park.
Petworth House, situated in Petworth, West Sussex, is a 17th-century mansion set in a 700-acre landscaped deer park. It is famous for hosing an important collection of paintings and sculptures, and the largest herd of fallow deer in England live on the grounds!
The artist John Constable famously called Petworth ‘the house of art’, and the National Trust still has its finest collection of pictures and sculptures displayed here. Everywhere you look, from the ceilings to the stairs, everyone who’s anyone in British history appears to be captured in portraits hanging on the walls here. It’s nothing short of impressive.
The Carved Room at Petworth is amongst the finest examples of the grand English Country House interior. Its layered and eclectic giving voice to Petworth’s reputation as “the house of art”. It reflects the patronage, stories, and interests of a family over generations.
You can discover Petworth’s rich and varied history on your own or by guided tour. I was in awe as I strolled through the staterooms saturated with paintings by artists such as Van Dyck, Reynolds, Titian, Blake and Turner, as well as the many classical and neo-classical sculptures.
What struck a chord with me, were neither the paintings nor the sculptures, it was the fireplaces in Petworth House. The Marble Hall of Petworth was built by the 6th Duke of Somerset in the 1690s as the impressive formal entrance for his new mansion. Apart from some minor work in the early 1900s, the tiles in the room had never been re-laid until recently. In the centre of this hall, lies a magnificent marble Victorian fireplace.
One of the fireplaces in the Marble Hall at Petworth House.
Petworth was largely the creation of Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset (1662-1748) in the 1680s and 1690s, although it contains the core of an earlier building dating back to the fourteenth century. The West front (completed 1702) and Marble Hall (completed 1692) are thought to be the work of Daniel Marot, a Huguenot architect and designer who worked for William III, because of payments to 'Mr Maro' (1693).
The Marble Hall has bolection mouldings around the fireplaces, with stiff-leaf decoration on the mantles and door surrounds. This type of decoration shows a vertical leaf - or feather - form repeated in series.
Fire, enclosed within any kind of architecture becomes domesticated. The fireplace over its history as an element in domesticity hasn’t changed drastically. The birth of the chimney in the early 12th century was and still remains one of modern civilization’s greatest development for the fireplace.
The elements of a traditional fireplace are understated and neutral. Typically, a painted wood mantel crowns a natural stone surround. It’s the accessories that shift the fireplace style to various traditional genres. The fireplace depicted above, you’ll notice how the mantel is painted a demure shade of cream, which complements the rich granite surrounding it. It’s a highly polished stone, which adds to the elegant quality of the fireplace. Traditional decorating is also strongly influenced by English and French design, and these fireplaces are no exception. Rather than dominate the space, the hefty piece coordinates nicely with all the architectural elements of the room.
What I love about fireplaces now, is the ease of operating them. Gone are the days of the wood-burning fireplace, now we have gas-burning fireplaces that provide all the same comforts but in a more convenient package, and also modern-day log burners.
I digress. No mention of the Petworth House is complete without a picture or two of its grand exterior garden and lake.
On my stroll across the landscape, I also came across the famous Dog of Alcibiades.
This visit has been an educational one for me. Suffice to say, that this day ended up being the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon in.
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