An era (1660 – 1702) characterised by the re-establishment of the monarch and a modern political direction following Cromwell’s commonwealth and the end of the civil wars. Charles II returned to Britain after being exiled to Europe. An altered form of government was established, including the return of bishops, and Charles II laid out assurances that moulded Britain into a new era. Included in his promises were pardons against those who had committed crimes against himself and his father (Charles I), as well as the fact that the army was given back pay and there was a recommissioning of troops in service to his crown. All religious faiths were to be tolerated and purchases made during the Civil wars and his exile were to be honoured.
Charles II brought back many opulent inspirations from his time away, including French Baroque style. Upon his arrival back home, Charles II encouraged foreign artists to come to Britain and he subsequently re-furbished many of his palaces. Prolific architect Hugh May was commissioned to redecorate Windsor Castle, which was to equal the majesty and grandeur of palaces Charles II had witnessed in Europe. The Royal Chapel (above) was refurbished to include ornate twisted columns, natural motifs and elaborate artwork such as the cloud filled ceiling.
Within society, hierarchy became fashionable once again, and higher classes were able to display their wealth through imported fashions and décor influences.
Sir Christopher Wren
One of Britain’s most renowned architects and a personal favourite of Charles II, Wren was considered somewhat of a‘Renaissance man’, after adopting new and sophisticated styles from his time in Paris. He possessed skills and qualifications that made him a mathematician, inventor, physicist and astronomer. Wren applied these skills to his architectural work, evidence of which can still be seen today. After the Great Fire of London (1666) Wren was appointed surveyor general in city planning within London, and was chosen to redesign replacements for small city churches including St Pauls Cathedral (above).
Wren’s work was considered systematic, restrained and orderly with guidance from Baroque styling. St Paul’s was reimagined with grand arches and elaborate carved alters and an organ. There was a sense of control and symmetry within the architectural design, such as the 3 domed layers: the lower dome covered the interior space, a middle ‘structural’ dome and then finally the exterior dome constructed from wood that forms the iconic imagery along the London skyline and is still a key landmark to this day.
Another church Wren designed was believed to have been his very own local church, St Stephen Warbrook. The architecture in this church is heavily influenced by geometric shapes and patterns, including squares, rectangles polygons and ovals, as well as sixteen columns arranged to form a Greek cross.
Wren also produced what is considered to be the blueprint of London townhouses, with a simple design and layout that was considered adaptable and versatile.
The William and Mary era was far more conservative with a Dutch influence, but still featured classic restoration elements such as the curved raised legs on this cabinet piece.
With the return of flaunted wealth and luxury, interiors and furniture design followed suit and were far more decorative and colourful than before. Classical panelling, plaster ceilings with ornate designs and wooden floors all featured heavily. Textiles imported from abroad were applied as wall hangings, curtains, cushions and upholstery such as the restored wing back chair.
Within the Carolean period, walnut was the most popular choice of wood in furniture design. Considered to be elegant and graceful, it was used to form curves on the arms and legs of chairs and tables, such as the cabriole leg which formed a S curve, and the Gate leg table
Others that featured within interiors included oak, olive, coromandel, white cedar and kingwood. Stone was also an essential choice with red and grey granite, portland stone and slate. There was balance in the design of interiors with windows and doors in alignment, large sash windows were introduced and artificial lighting was often turned to in wake of increasing wax prices.