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Fireplaces

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



DURING the periods up to the end of the 15th century the usual place for the hall fireplace was in the centre of the floor. The smoke escaped as best it could through an opening in the roof. The hearth of stone or brick was, as a rule, either raised or surrounded by a raised curbing, and the example from Penshurst, Kent (Fig. 4), shows it to be octagonal in shape. The logs were supported by large fire dogs.

The side fireplace was, however, used in some cases. Fig. 2 shows the Norman type, and structures similar to this were built during the succeeding centuries, but the arch assumed the characteristic Gothic shape instead of being semicircular. In the early Gothic period the breast was sometimes made to slope forwards from the top, and thus form a hood supported below by pillars.

The later and more usual form of wall fireplace did not project into the room. In the event of there being insufficient depth for the flue in the wall, a projection was built to the exterior of the building. Fig. 8 shows a fire-place of this type in which the interior retains an unbroken wall surface. It was unusual for the Tudor Gothic mantelpiece to receive any very marked attention from the decorative point of view. In the majority of cases when the room was hung with tapestry the latter continued above the fireplace opening. In this way only the stone opening was exposed.

In panelled rooms the panelling above the opening was in some instances of a rather more ornate character, or it was arranged in a slightly different manner to that in the remainder of the room. Apart from this no particular emphasis was given to the overmantel.

The gradual tendency towards the middle of the 16th century was to endow the fireplace with a certain degree of importance. This idea obtained such a hold in Elizabethan times that many of the mantelpieces reached the point of being grotesque in their degree of elaboration, and were quite out of harmony with the rooms in which they were built. Either wood, plaster, or stone, or a combination of them, was used in their construction. A noticeable feature is the survival of the Gothic arch until even the early Jacobean period. An instance of this is the fireplace at Quenby Hall (Fig. 35). In other cases a rectangular opening was used, as shown in Fig. 29.

A constantly occurring feature in Elizabethan and Jacobean mantelpieces was the use of the classic orders. These were freely carved according to the fancy of the craftsmen, and were usually of doubtful proportions, and involved irregular details.



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