Great Fulford is a Grade I listed manor in Devon. We designed and made the new Great Drawing Room ceiling, which was commended in the 2013 Georgian Group Awards and won the 2013 Plaisterer’s Trophy.
Great Fulford has been the home of the Fulford family for over 800 years. The Great Drawing Room was destroyed in the early 19th century, and its gradual restoration has been the work of three generations of the Fulford family.
The room was created c.1693 by remodelling the Tudor Great Chamber, removing one floor to give a magnificent double cube room. Unfortunately this weakened the structure and the ceiling collapsed as the walls moved outwards. The Fulfords abandoned this side of the house, which became known as ‘the ruin’. In 1910 the family restored the Great Hall and the Great Staircase, planning to restore the Great Drawing Room at a later date, but the First World War and then death duties intervened. By 1960 the south wall of the room was in danger of collapsing into the courtyard. Structural repairs were carried out and wall panelling and a plaster cove were installed. The temporary pegboard ceiling was to be replaced ‘when funds became available’.
After seeing our exhibition at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Francis and Kishanda Fulford commissioned us to design and make the new ceiling.
The South West has a rich tradition of late 17th and early 18th century plasterwork, and the new ceiling is in the spirit of the age that the Great Drawing Room was built. The design is based on circular geometry and every element is related by proportion. The central panel is after the Tintoretto painting Bacchus and Ariadne. Ariadne was abandoned on the island of Naxos by her lover Theseus, who sails away in the distance. She is discovered on the shore by Bacchus, who asks her to marry him and offers her the sky as a wedding gift. The panel depicts their marriage, as Venus crowns her with stars. The scrolling leaf forms are influenced by the plasterwork at Pynes House, near Exeter, which has a magnificent stair hall ceiling of c. 1700.
All the decoration was modelled in clay by a team of six sculptors in our workshop. We moulded the finished models in silicon rubber and cast them in fibrous plaster. Hayles & Howe installed the ceiling, and also ran the plain running mouldings for us. All the decoration is modelled in high relief, which together with the running mouldings, give the ceiling its bold, sweeping sense of drama.
Geoffrey has created a ceiling to gasp at…Francis Fulford