Interior Decoration and Rooms
The interior of Hall Place is as symmetrical as the exterior. The William East Room and the two chimney-pieces, one in the Jacob Banks Room and the other in what is now the Clayton East Room, celebrate the East family’s wealth and status in flamboyant style.
The William East Room
The finest room in the house (The Drawing Room) with superb examples of Italian craftsmanship in plater. The room also originally provided one of the earliest English examples of imitation marble, scagliola, a mottled painted effect in a rich rose as the base colour of the wall panels, a striking background effect to the white and gold of the stucco (plaster) decoration.
The stucco work on walls and ceiling is complex and ornate throughout. The intricate detail, as in the expanding symmetrical fan shapes in the ceiling, and monumental figures as in the dolphins, combine to make this a ‘busy’ but not overpowering display.
Tradition records that the decoration symbolises the alliance of the then two great sea powers, England and Holland. The alliance was to have been achieved partly through the marriage in 1734 of Anne, daughter of George II and Queen Caroline, to William, Prince of Orange. William East was in favour of this alliance as judged by the stucco portraits of William and Anne on the east wall of the Drawing Rooms and the bust profile of Queen Caroline over the mantelpiece. The Queen is looking away from the couple, mourning the loss of her daughter to William, the Dutch Prince. Neither couple was apparently attractive, Princess Anne was sadly disfigured by smallpox, however, she was ambitious and informed the Queen that she was resolved, ‘’… if it was a monkey, I would marry him’’.
The entwined dolphins, surmounted by cupids, also symbolizes the alliance of the two maritime nationals. On a panel on the west side of the ceiling are the arms of East, a chevron between three horses’ heads, and on the opposite side the monogram W.E.
The Italian craftsman’s work is a major factor contributing to the Grade I listing and a testament to their outstanding skill and attention to detail.
The Salter Chalker Room is an annex to the William East Room, a rectangular space dominated by the twin eagles atop the large fireplace. The plaster central ceiling rose and woodwork outlined in gold between walls and ceiling are of note.
The Clayton-East Room and the Original Principal’s Office
Both relatively small rooms in wood paneling, the former painted and the latter in an untreated state. In the Principal’s Office the panels are plain timber, probably Deal; age had given a warm glow to the room originally the ‘Morning Room’ facing the rising sun. The mirror above the plain fireplace and those set into the wall of the William East Room are all that remain of the family fittings.
The Clayton-East Room is dominated by an ornate fireplace and fine marble mantle with a lion’s head and acanthus leaves in relief.
The detailing within and around many of the doorways on the ground floor representing twisted scrolls and entwined acanthus leaves can be found in other houses of this period; identical examples surrounded the doorways in the 1740’s Room at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
The upper floors continue the plain symmetry of the house, false doors ensuring a balance to the eye. Rooms lead off a central corridor running north/south on the first floor and the second floor. A large high ceilinged room with an ornate fireplace and windows to the north and west lies at the end of the first-floor corridor, originally the main bedroom of the house. The remaining first-floor family bedrooms each have a dressing room with interconnecting doors.
Top floor bedrooms are smaller, without dressing rooms and were likely children’s and servants’ bedrooms. The large room above the main bedroom accommodates the high ceiling, making the roof beams visible; probably dormitory accommodation for servants.
The main staircase itself is not grand; the original servants’ stairs (now removed) lie behind the main staircase; doors on the half landings betray their presence.
Lower Ground Floor
A range of both large and small rooms for use by servants run the length of the lower ground floor with what was originally the kitchen area directly below the Jacob Bancks Room (original Dining Room). The building itself is supported at this level on a series of arches which can be seen in the old underground beer cellars, as can the pipework from the late 19th-century gas lighting, the plant for which was located where the Learning Centre now stands.
When the Berkshire County Council took ownership, in the early 1950s a number of buildings to the north of the Mansion were demolished. Judging by Victorian plans these included a range of utility areas such as sculleries and storage. The range led out into the yard surrounded by stables and carriage sheds (The Courtyard).
To the front of the main building gratings at ground level betray the presence of substantial coal cellars and a glass circular dome and underground pantry to the front of the kitchen.