The Great HouseThe ancient manors and houses of our gentlemen are yet and for the most part of strong timber, in framing whereof our carpenters have been and are worthily preferred before those of like science among all other nations. Howbeit such as be lately builded are commonly either of brick or hard stone, or both, their rooms large and comely, and houses of office further distant from their lodgings.
Those of the nobility are likewise wrought with brick and
hard stone, as provision may best be made, but so magnificent and stately as
the basest house of a baron doth often match in our days with some honours of
a prince in old time. So that, if ever curious building did flourish in England,
it is in these our years wherein our workmen excel and are in manner comparable
in skill with old Vitruvius, Leo Baptista, and Serlio.
On window glassTraditionally, many building elements are thought of as moveable: shutters, doors, window frames, chimney pieces, wainscoting, even staircases. As the great house becomes more of a symbol of family permanence and power, these elements come to be seen as fixtures rather than furnishings.
As late as 1567, glass is thought too fragile for constant use. When you're not in residence, you may instruct the staff to remove the glass panes and place them in storage. They will fill in the space with panels of translucent horn or woven lattices fixed into wooden frames.
As glass becomes cheaper, and windows more numerous, they come to be seen as a permanent part of the installation.
With the proliferation of glass, the new houses springing up in the countryside have a tendency to glitter. (Happily, no one will think to tax them for another 100 years or so.) The countess of Shrewsbury's great house in Derbyshire indulges the passion for glass to such a degree that people say: Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.
On designArchitecture is a newly revived science, largely promoted in England by Dr. John Dee (1570) and John Shute (1563). It is not a profession but a gentleman's avocation.
If you cannot import an architect from Italy, you probably design your new house yourself, with assistance from a Master Mason or Carpenter, with a Surveyor of the Works to supervise the workmen.
Some things never change: In 1594, Lady Shrewsbury sought legal redress against a workman who had absented himself from work already begun and paid for.
The principal influences:
Classical ornament includes columns based on modern interpretations of Roman and Greek models, molded terra cotta medallions, and symmetrical facades.
Don't feel obliged to copy anything too closely, however. Even your neighbors are borrowing only the ornamental elements that please them, rather than whole floor plans.
In fact, your new facade may be totally unrelated to the style of the room plan behind it, which is likely still traditional. If you are merely remodeling, you may choose to tack on a new facade to your present but unfashionably medieval building.
Propriety arises when buildings having magnificent interiors are provided with elegant entrance courts to correspond; for there will be no propriety in the spectacle of an elegant interior approached by a low, mean entrance.
Nicholas Cooper, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680,
28 March 2008 mps