Parlington Hall :: Painted plasterwork from the early eighteenth century

Painted Plaster Artifacts

Recent finds in the debris of the wine cellar, which was located at the rear of the Drawing Room, are fragments of fibrous plaster with painted floral decoration still intact.

A Fragment of Painted Plasterwork

Hand Painted Walls

Following the painted plaster discoveries I have made some brief investigations into their origin, it seems wallpaper was taxed during the eighteenth century, only repealed at the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign. Therefore walls were often decorated with hand stencil work to avoid the taxation. The wall plaster fragments would appear to be evidence of this in use at Parlington. However there are some discrepancies, commentators suggest that artisans avoided the tax on painted wallpaper, first imposed in 1712, by hanging untaxed plain paper and painting it! The fragments found are painted directly onto the lime plaster. Also to say it was stencil work is probably incorrect as the evidence points to direct painting of a floral nature. However insufficient pieces have so far been uncovered to be able to make a judgement on the likely pattern.

Floral Painted Plaster

After finding numerous pieces of painted wall plaster I took them to be assessed by the curator at Lotherton Hall, Adam White; he in turn asked an expert on decorative wall painting and showed the samples. It is probable that they are from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, a real turn-up, YES up to 300 or more years old! I will post more of these finds in due course. To give an idea of size these pieces are around 4 inches [10cms] across.

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The book mentioned below was obtained as it seemed possible that it might have references to one of the craftsmen mentioned in Sir Edward Gascoigne's diaries of the 1730's. He stated as follows: March 15th 1732, bargained with Mr Vassali to do my chappel according to plan with a window and ceiling in ye Tribune...Thus I had hoped that some pieces of the work of Mr Vassali might be discovered amongst the remains of the demolished building. The pieces mentioned here are probably later, I suspect from the upper storey of the Drawing Room section. Mr Vassali is mentioned in the book in various places as having been employed in numerous Stately Homes, this may be worth exploring in more detail in the future.


The information on classical plastering has been enhanced by information sourced from the highly regarded book Decorative Plasterwork in Great Britain, by Geoffrey Beard. First published by Phaidon Press Ltd 1975 ISBN 0 7148 1686 8.

The inner cover flap of the book states: Decorative plasterwork was created by skilled craftsmen, and for over four hundred years it has been an essential part of the interior decoration of the British Country House...

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