Ornamental Chimney Boards

Chimney boards were often used during Victorian times to hide the dark, dirty opening of a fireplace when it was not in use. Many of us today, who are lucky enough to have a fireplace as a focal point, have the same situation. The screens used today are usually made of metal with some sort of scroll work. One of these would most definitely be unique.

The following information was published in Cassell's Household Guide" to give Victorian ladies ideas other than hanging a curtain or using plant to hide the fireplace opening.

Note that some items may no longer be available and it will be up to the reader to decide what substitutions should be made.

This article has been edited for use on this site.

Chimney Board No. 1

Indian Board. — Procure, or put together, a deal frame that will exactly fit into the chimney of the grate intended for decoration, from side to side of the marble or wooden posts, and from the bar under the shelf to the ground. With tacks strain tightly over this a piece of common long-cloth, over which paste plain black paper, entirely covering it.

It is next needful to purchase a number of the German embossed scraps, such as are sold for Christmas and birthday cards. They can generally be procured at the valentine makers', and they are often kept by fancy stationers and others. The greater the variety the better.

Cut them apart in small sprigs, and gum them carelessly all over the black screen. A bouquet may be placed in the centre or not, according to taste. When the decoration is finished, varnish the screen; let it dry, and varnish again. Two or three coats of varnish are enough. It is best to keep it whilst being varnished in an unused room, or a cupboard. Lay it on two or three large, wide-spread sheets of newspaper whilst putting on the varnish, to prevent damaging the apartment, and keep the screen locked up till completed, to secure it against dust, &c. When quite dry and hard, it is fit for use.

Chimney Board No. 2

victorian chimney board decorated with flowers

Figure 1
Click on picture to see more detail.

Another way is to make a narrow wooden frame, and stretch black or white tarlatan across it. Mount the sprigs of flowers on the net. Dress the grate with shavings, which will be seen through the transparent screen, unless it is lined. See Fig. 1, above.

Chimney Board No. 3

Wedgwood Board. — These Wedgwood boards can be rendered very elegant with a little patience and good taste. They are designed expressly for the Household Guide, as well as the Sevres screens, which will be presently described. This pretty invention will also be applied to some other articles of household decoration that will shortly be given.

Procure a frame for a mantelpiece board, as already described. Cover it with long-cloth, and over that paste, very evenly and without damaging the delicate surface, satin paper of a Wedgwood blue-grey, or a Palissy grey-green — the blue is the most effective.

victorian chimney board  Imitation wedgewood

Figure 2
Click on picture to see more detail.

Thirteen sheets of lace note-paper are required to decorate it, and they are of five different patterns ; the cost is about twopence per sheet. The patterns used will be perceived by reference to the illustration (Fig. 2). The paper is the kind used by valentine-makers, and can be procured retail at most of the fancy stationers' shops, and also probably at the same place as that from which you get the German scraps.

Portions only of each sheet of paper are used, and are nicely cut out with a sharp penknife on a board, or with small scissors. Great care must be taken to keep the work very clean — apply the decorations with gum. For the centre, there is the figure of a maiden, led onward by two Cupids. Some roses grow at the feet, and an acacia spray almost embowers, but is very subordinate to, the principal figure. An oval border of daisies converts the design into a medallion. It is separated from the sheet of paper at this border. The design represents "Innocence."

The four corners are next filled with four similar medallions, for which purpose as many sheets of the paper containing them are needed. The design represents a young prince, in mediaeval costume, standing beside a high-born maiden, who is seated beneath a tree playing upon a lute. A lace border encircles this, and again a border of roses, beyond which is a border of forget-me-nots. The medallion is cut out between the rose border and the forget-me-not border, the latter not being used. This represents "Love."

below the centre medallion are two small groups of classical figures. A hunter and a maiden bear on their shoulders an infant Hymen, who waves his lighted torch above his head. The subject idealised is "Marriage."

Two sheets of this paper must be purchased for this chimney board. Cut out two groups of the figures alone, and place as shown in the engraving. At the lower corners of the paper are, each side, groups of three Cupids. Remove the Cupids from the four sheets of paper, and place them each side of the centre medallion of "Innocence" as shown. At the upper corners are, each side, a single flying Cupid. Cut out all four of them, and place where indicated.

Another group is a Watteau design. A lady and gentleman seated on a fauteuil (an upholstered armchair usually having open sides), the lady's tunic suspended with roses. The subject is "Courtship." Two sheets of this paper are wanted. Remove the figures from both sheets, and place them on the board where shown. At the upper part of the paper are two Cupids, cross-legged. Remove them all, and fix them in their places. There are on this sheet of paper two doves, and a garland of roses, which could be cut out for decoration. Remove the centre from the roses.

Lastly select a sheet of paper containing at the foot of groups of palm trees, a classical figure of a maiden with a lyre, seated, an Ascalon or Cupid whispering to her some message he has brought. The subject is "The First Whisper of Love." Four of these sheets are needed. Remove the figures and place them as shown. All round the edge of the screen arrange a border of lace paper. The remains of the lace paper will cut up for the decoration of jardinière.

Chimney Board No. 4

Victorian chimney board - imitation sevres

Figure 3
Click on picture to see more detail.

Sevres China Fire-screens. — Make a frame as before named. Cover it for the Sévigné with turquoise blue satin paper; for Du Barry with a pale rose pink. The illustration (Fig. 3) must have all the centres of the medallions, both round and oval, cut out of rich white satin paper, and laid on first. Purchase scraps of garlands of flowers, birds of Paradise, and butterflies, and form the garlands round the medallions and between them. A few small Cupids may also be introduced among the roses. Fill the centers with pretty coloured groups of Watteau figures.

These chimney board designs — the Indian, the Wedgwood, and the Sèvres are admirably calculated, if carried out upon a larger scale, to make screens, either dwarf dinner-screens, or folding.

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