Plaster Mouldings

Image of Cornice being looked at in shop

People mostly require plaster mouldings from the following eras:

Plaster mouldings have always been created by skilled craftsmen and for over four hundred years they have been an essential part of the interior decoration of British buildings. There are several main kinds of decorative plaster mouldings and over the years they have been made using a range of techniques. The style and size of decoration has changed with each passing era, moving back and forth between simple to elaborate, and small to big, reflecting historic events, tastes and fashions of the day. Today it used mainly to restore character in affluent period properties or bring back life and grandeur to historic buildings.

Purely decorative

Plaster mouldings are one of the few elements of a building that are purely decorative. Because of this you usually only find them on the inside of a building on the mid to upper parts of walls, and ceilings. There are examples of plaster skirting for walls, but these are rare and quite impractical; skirting is used to protect walls, plaster is brittle, so its use at the base of a wall that’s prone to knocks is not a good idea.

The main kinds of plaster mouldings are:

  • Ceiling Roses
  • Ceiling bands
  • Cornice
  • Corbels
  • Friezes
  • Picture rails

Ingredients

The best plaster is made from gypsum. Throughout the ages many other ingredients have been added to it. Hair from various sources, such as bulls and goats were added to give strength, even horses hooves were added to improve the plasticity and workability of the plaster. Moulds for the plaster used to be made from wood or wax and at the great exhibition of 1851 Gelatine moulds were introduced and they were billed as the latest innovation in plaster moulds. Today however, fibrous plaster is poured into (GRP) Glass Reinforced Plastic. Lathes and hessian have been used for hundreds of years and are still used at present. Lathes (thin lengths of wood) add strength and help with fixing, screws drive through the plaster and wood when fixing in place. Hessian helps to prevent cracking.

A brief history

The earliest decorative plasterwork can be dated back to when Henry the VII gave the art and mystery of plastering formal recognition with his ‘charter to the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers of London’. Prior to this date plasterwork should really be considered just as a means of lining flat walls with a durable finish. From then onward plaster mouldings became an integral part of interior design. Indigo Jones brought classical architecture to the British Isles in 1622 with the building of the Banqueting House in Whitehall. The mouldings within his grand buildings reflected this classical theme. Roman elements such as the acanthus leaf were embellished on the plaster decoration, as well as dentils and swags of flowers, elements that would become inherent to plaster mouldings for the next four hundred years.

The complexity of embellishment has had peaks and troughs over time. The artistically elaborate style of English Baroque during the reign of Queen Anne (1707 – 1714), gave way to the simple elegance of the Georgian (1714 – 1830) and Regency era. The Victorian era (1837 – 1901) began with the classical Italianate style but then towards the middle of this era, the newly rich middle classes wanted to show off their wealth, hence the revival of elaborate decorative plaster mouldings. The Victorian era was also a time of several architectural revival periods including the Gothic and Tudorbethan, and as you would imagine, the plaster mouldings borrowed elements from these styles. We have also found original cornice from Victorian properties that has been embellished with symbols of Britain’s industrial expansion during the 19th century, such as steam ships and factories.

Plaster mouldings usage today

The use of plaster mouldings today is different from bygone eras. No longer do we embellish it with symbols of the modern world and no longer do we try to show off our wealth by completely smothering our ceilings and walls with highly decorative mouldings, but that’s not to say we never will again! Nowadays we tend to either sympathetically restore them to match the age and style of a period property so as to bring back character, or blend old designs with modern interior design to create innovative style. Whichever way plaster mouldings are used it requires skill to get it right.

Greenwich Cornice supply and install all manor of plaster mouldings and exist to help people renovate their properties with their perfect plaster products.