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The decoration of the Oak Panelled living rooms quite naturally was originally governed by the necessities of life rather than by artistic whim; it is therefore necessary to view such decoration from a practical standpoint.
First and foremost come light and heat-therefore the windows and fireplace are of primary importance. The open fireplace with its wide chimney was obviously the main feature because large logs were being burned here and space must be allowed for their comfortable disposal. As family life normally collected round the fireplace, its decoration, however simple, would immediately have an audience.
The earliest fireplaces of this period were either constructed with a perfectly simple Stone with fixed Oak Panelling or great oak beam supported by stone work either side, or a large slab of stone flush to the wall with the chimney stack outside. The stone aperture followed the traditional fashion for opening, being a Tudor or four-centred arch, carved to suit the householder.
The surviving examples of these early stone fireplaces carry simple designs -usually geometric in shape, carved along the top slab of stone in a series of squares. In the smaller rooms the principle was the same, and on the next page are two examples of the four-centred arch stone fireplace in its most simple form. The first drawing shows the only ornament to be the fleur-de-lys carved at the springing of the bevil. This old fireplace found in an upper room was exposed during the alterations of a home in Dorsetshire. Just beside it was a doorway of similar design which had at some time probably been the opening to a stair way.
The second drawing shows a later and more decorated arrangement of the same idea still based on the perfectly simple principle of cutting a decoration on the face of the stone with a minimum of ornament.