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Seventeenth-Century Interior Design

By 18 August 2015January 11th, 2021No Comments

The Museum’s building collection includes an early 17th century rear extension from a house in Reigate High Street.

In 1981 the house was due for demolition to make way for a shopping centre development, and the extension was presented to the Museum by the developers.

The main part of the house facing onto the High Street dated from the early part of the 20th century, but we know that the extension was originally attached to a medieval timber-framed house, which would probably have been jettied like our late 15th century shops from Horsham.

The extension contains a stone basement, a ground-floor room or parlour, an upper chamber and an attic. Each of the two main rooms had a small inner room or closet. The parlour and upper chamber both have fine carved stone fireplaces.

Decorative wall paintings house extension from Reigate, Weald & Downland Museum

During dismantling it was discovered that substantial fragments of original decorative painting were concealed under later coats of paint. Most of these were in the upper room.

The painting on the walls and ceiling consisted mainly of floral patterns in black line with brightly-coloured infill in a pattern which resembles contemporary embroidery. As is typical with wall paintings of this period, the pattern extended over the timbers without interruption and also over the ceiling.

The effect of the paintings when they were first executed would have been to turn the upper room into a brightly painted floral box. The fireplace overmantle was decorated with a now highly-fragmented scene of St George and the Dragon.

17th century overmantel george and dragon

The mouldings on the stone fireplaces suggest that the extension was built around 1620 and it is likely that the painted walls were executed at the same time. They may have been commissioned by Walter Cade, an affluent London merchant, who owned the property at this date.

The upper chamber probably functioned both as a bedroom and as a withdrawing room. The textiles in the room – bed hangings and covers, seat cushions and window curtains – would also have been brightly coloured and possibly patterned and some of the furniture would have been painted.

To the modern eye the colour and pattern combinations would seem rather jarring but early modern men and women enjoyed colour and associated it with wealth and social display.

The house extension is not currently open to the public although we do try to open the upper room when we can, and the room will be open to view on Saturday 22 August 2015.

To view a spherical panorama of the upper room, please visit the website of Ian Humes, who kindly recorded the room for the Museum.