Waltham Abbey Panelled Room, Essex
The Waltham Abbey panelling is a fascinating and little-studied example of early sixteenth-century woodwork. Previous antiquarian approaches have attempted to identify the patron and original location, but failed to place the panelling’s iconography and style into the broader context of sixteenth-century England. This article reevaluates the panelling in the light of fresh research and extensive observation, offering new possibilities about its origins, location and creation. Fifty-four of 110 carved oak panels are displayed at Epping Forest District Museum, Essex, on long-term loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). A group of 100 narrow panels dates to the c.1520s, carved by several hands of varying abilities, possibly with one or more foreigners working alongside native craftsmen. A second group of ten wider panels is dissimilar in design and style, suggesting a different, perhaps Continental hand. Despite two unidentified coats of arms, the panels’ original location is unknown. Probably made for Waltham Abbey itself, they may have adorned the Abbey Mansion before moving to ‘Green Yard’, a house in the town. They could also have been made for Dallance, a nearby manor. The combination of Renaissance medallion portraits, Tudor heraldic devices and Gothic ogee arches shows craftsmen adapting new Continental motifs for the English context.