Penrhyn Castle Tour Session #4

A Bedroom Fit for a Queen

This bedroom is classic for Royalty and the nobility of the era. Nothing was too grand, expensive or considered wasteful if you could lure a queen to sleep in your house. The whole castle was built for just such a thing (such is the dynamic that affects us when we want to be accepted) and at the then cost of 150, 000 (450,000,000) for building such a creation. But it’s the workmanship I pursue in this and not the inequality of the haves and the have-nots. Hopper worked indefatigably to complete this room with just such royalty in mind. Though ending in disappointment, the bed, carved from solid slate, was a unique work of creative design and craftsmanship. Specifically designed and made for the then queen to sleep in, fear prevented her in that she felt in imminent danger with such weight looming at such lofty heights during her sleep.

Slate makes a good hard roof that outlasts all others in terms of longevity and the same might be said for it as a bed when I think that this one is 150 years old, but in terms of carving it, slate is fairly soft to carve, saw and polish. I think this bed is a more dramatic than many others by virtue of the fact that it is made from solid slate alone. The sweeping serpentine footboard replete with incised carving would make a stunning replication in oak or cherry, walnut or mesquite.

A Picture Frame

It should not go unnoticed that this picture frame too reflects the creative artisan at his best. I would like to replicate this in lime or basswood. This type of carving is not so much complex to carve as tediously geometric and repetitive. By knife or chisel, it’s still a lot of exacting and time-consuming work. There are some very fine carvers still producing high levels of design and craftsmanship in wood today that I so respect.

Another Hopper Piece

Again, Hopper introduces the Norman neo-classic he was determined to parallel throughout the Castle in the furnishings and the bedside cabinets reinforce the work with turned columns and triple arched work from stonework, woodwork, metalwork and plasterwork. Solid oak seems to be a common thread too, and though some quartersawn oak was evidently used, it was not a general theme in most of the work, so I think it was not important or integral at the design level or in the actual design of any of the workpieces so much as incidental to the working stock. This tabletop is marble, which doesn’t surprise me in that slate may wear well, but it marks and scratches badly.

Wardrobes for Dressing Nobility

Notice again the overall design repeated from the bedside table with columns and arches. I question the final location of this piece as I noticed the cornice return runs past the wall against which it stands. Perhaps there was some modification for practical reasons.

I liked the simplicity in this piece of work though. Turned work is very quick and not too skilful but creates stunning results and especially when combined with the carver’s skill as in this case. I also like the stepped front for the side columns to stand forward on. I used this feature in my design for the White House pieces I made in 2008/9 and liked the classic aspect it gave to the overall appearance of the credenzas. Also, notice too the main column to the right side of the wardrobe and the caps in both the column and the columns in the wardrobe.

The Queens Dressing Table

The dressing table and mirror stand further combine the theme of columns and spirals though you cannot see the legs for the bed cover here. It’s worth noting that the tops of the main columns are part of the dressing table design and you can see these cap-offs here. Also quite dominant is the triple herringbone feature, though uniquely different in that it’s produced in negative space and so very unusual.

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