An Intellectual Impression
HERE ARE A FEW TIPS FOR CREATING YOUR OWN VICTORIAN-INSPIRED LIBRARY.
Large ornate bookcases were all the rage in the Victorian era. Of course, they had books that looked stunning too, with matching spines and colors in multiple volumes, which gave the impression that the owners were well-read and knowledgeable. While many Victorian barons were keen readers, some had large libraries—just for show. These gentlemen liked to give the impression of a studious lifestyle, but didn’t actually read much, preferring to spend their time traveling, collecting treasures, throwing parties, feasting and entertaining friends.
Creating a perfect home library today depends somewhat on personal taste.
If you want the beautiful open bookcases that were popular in Victorian times, look for ornate oak or period mahogany bookcases, perhaps with glass doors to keep dust out. If you prefer to hide the bright colors of modern books, then a panel of organza, or a voile curtain, inside a glass case can give your library a more classical feel. Choose French or Italian style furniture for your library and consider a period lamp or two to bring a certain ambience to the room. Avoid modern mahogany furniture, as it’s usually sourced from threatened rainforests; authentic period furniture is more pleasing.
above. This is an archival picture of the dining room at The Vyne, when it was located in the current saloon. The pair of marble-topped tables against the walls are English and date to 1730. They have walnut frames. opposite. The chapel parlor was a place to relax and reflect.
Wiggett bought the plaster busts over the bookcases for £14 in 1845. They portray the images of famous writers, including Cicero, Dryden, Prior, Locke, Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Goldsmith and Johnson. They were a popular feature in libraries at this time. The globes date to 1818 and the chairs date to 1870, but both have a 17th century style.
Two rooms once occupied the space now known as the chapel parlor. The Tudor paneling was an addition after the new room was created. The light colored furniture, probably from the 19th century, creates a comfortable country house feel. Servants would have served tea in this room, which the ladies of the house used for quiet relaxation and intimate conversations.
The Tudor chapel is majestic, with beautifully carved stalls that are among the last of their kind. The marble tiles sit next to colorful 16th century glazed tiles in bright colors, including lemon, blue, orange and green, and depict animals, birds, fruit and foliage. The stained glass windows depict the passion of Christ, the young Henry VIII, Queen Catherine of Aragon and Queen Margaret of Scotland, King Henry VIII’S sister.
19TH CENTURY DECOR
In 1804, the original prints in the print room were glued to the walls—a decorative idea that was fashionable at the time. The images had previously been kept as a portfolio in the gallery. The decision to glue them to the walls came at a cost: sunlight combined with general wear and tear meant that by 1959, the prints were ruined. They had deteriorated beyond repair. As part of the restoration prints from the Liechtenstein Collection replaced the originals in 1959, and the walls were repainted at the same time. Most of the images on display in the print room today are from 17th and 18th century Italian and French artists.
The staircase hall would once have been part of a grand open hall with a central staircase. The current staircase was a replacement, constructed between 1769 and 1771 by John Chute. The Topographer in 1789 described it as a “Grecian theatric staircase.” Wooden floorboards replaced the original stone floor and the current decorative scheme dates to 1960.
AN AMBITIOUS GALLERY
William Sandys installed the paneling in the oak gallery. Even then, it was ambitious, for long galleries were more often hung with painted cloth or tapestries. Each panel depicts the emblem of a Tudor celebrity: kings, queens, lords and ladies. In the 17th century, the window spaces became narrower and more windows were installed; the paneling was modified to accommodate this. Portraits of important politicians, aristocrats and countesses hang in the gallery. Busts of Roman emperors, kings and queens are now on display. The room would have been used to entertain guests, receive petitions and deal with business.
The beautifully carved, ornate chimneypiece in the tapestry room was originally in the dining parlor, but moved in 1842, and the woodwork on the ceiling came from the old school room. The tapestries, which draw on Persian and Indian imagery, are wool and silk creations from England around 1720. They were reduced in size to fit the room when they moved into this room in the mid19th century. The furniture in this room dates to the 18th century.
THE STRAWBERRY PARLOR
This bedroom became Wiggett Chute’s study in the 1870s and became known as the strawberry parlor in the 20th century. Architectural drawings and prints hang on the wall, all associated with Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s gothic castle in London. The portrait over the writing desk is of Thomas Lobb Chute, who inherited the Vyne in 1776 when his cousin died. The seascape over the fireplace is 18th century.
Chute added 16 new bedrooms to the servants’ wing and was keen to do away with informal arrangements between masters and servants.
Family portraits, pastels and watercolors embellish the south bedroom, some of which include portraits of Sir Charles and Lady Chute. The mahogany tester bedstead is English and was made around 1845. The hangings are a more recent acquisition and the fabric dates to the early 20th century.
Wigget Chute grained the wood panels in the dining parlor to create the appearance of light oak. They are Tudor linenfold panels, and moved to this room from another part of the house. They show how a 16th-century, fully paneled room in this style would have looked. The picture over the fireplace is called Aurora. It’s a 19th century copy of Guido Reni’s ceiling painting, depicting the goddess of dawn, Aurora, in the Casino Rospigliosi, Rome. To its left is the painting, Moonlight, by Sebastian Palmer, dated 1841.
The Vyne is currently undergoing conservation of the roof, which means many of the rooms are closed to visitors. It has an exhibition on the ground floor and a rooftop walkway, enabling you to see the restoration work taking place. The works are expected to be complete in the spring of 2018, and the upper floors will be open to the public again. Do check online for full details if you are planning to visit this lovely historic estate.
This set of walnut chairs is English and dates to 1715. They have baluster form backs and the seats were reupholstered in the 1940s by Laura, Lady Chute.
above. The walnut writing cabinet in the Strawberry Parlor dates to 1690 and is English. The linen covers on the chairs were created in a mid-18th century style by Laura, Lady Chute, in the early 20th century. opposite. The piano in the saloon is veneered rosewood, English, and dates to 1846. It’s a good example of Broadwood’s patent repetitive grand. The harp dates to 1825 and is an Erard, no 4006.
above. The large drawing room is the first room along the north front, which was probably built in the 17th century. The picture over the fireplace is a 1680 creation by Vincente Giner, purchased by Wiggett Chute in 1843. opposite. The south bedroom was once a part of the king’s lodgings, where King Henry VIII would have slept when he visited the Vyne.