( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IN the houses of the Gothic period it was customary for the floor boards of the upper rooms to be visible from below between the beams supporting them, the whole "ceiling" being thus of wood. The beams were usually either moulded or chamfered along their length, and in some cases the faces were carved with Gothic tracery and leaf work. The mouldings or chamfers were stopped at both ends of the beams, or at the intersection of cross beams. In some cases they were mitred, the joints being covered with carved bosses in the form of rosettes, leaf age, or other Gothic motifs.
In a few of the more elaborate wooden ceilings the joints were hidden behind thin wooden boards. A, Fig. 49, illustrates a ceiling of this description, and has a series of small chamfered ribs arranged to form square panels. These help to secure the boarding and prevent it from warping.
Plaster was also used in combination with wood, but it was not until the 16th century that complete plaster ceilings attained general use. Early forms were comparatively simple, and consisted of geometrical designs formed by series of moulded ribs. These latter were often of wood, and were covered with gesso work, as in the case of the ceiling of Wolsey's Privy Chamber at Hampton Court. As the century advanced, the ceiling, in common with the remainder of the interior work, was elaborated. The designs became exceedingly intricate, and the ribs were often heavier in construction. A favourite feature was the use of heavy drooping pendants, such as those at B and C, Fig. 49. These were usually formed by a downward curvature of the ribs at their intersection, and were interspaced at regular intervals over the ceiling. The spaces between the ribs were filled in with various floral, strap work, or heraldic devices.
In many cases comparatively wide and deep ribs were used in the place of plain moulded ribs. The edges were moulded, and the face modelled with conventional floral designs often involving grotesques. At the intersection of these wide ribs small pendants were usually added.
Both flat and semi-elliptical ceilings were in vogue. In some instances the central portion was flat and the sides coved over. A close examination of the plaster ceilings of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods reveals countless minor inaccuracies. These were due to the whole of the work being done in situ and the wet plaster being applied and modelled by hand.