Now I'm not saying good taste, necessarily, or bad taste either. Just taste, preference, what you like.
I didn't like this very much.
The fireplace opening had been reduced in size, and a new beam put in above it, not symmetrically either. Mind you, there isn't much that is symmetrical in this cottage, or straight, or parallel, or smooth or matching; that is part of its charm. The beautiful side stones remained on one side only.
The new beam stood out in contrast to the ancient ceiling beams:
And I wanted a mantel shelf. So Neil the carpenter made me one, simple, plain, not too big and overbearing, but enough to have candles on in the winter evenings, and flowers all the year round.
And it had to match the beams, so it had to be black. I'm pleased with it.
The stone wall round the fireplace will be covered in traditional lime render, with its gentle curves that follow the line of the stone, and leaving some stone still visible. (Photos will follow, probably in October!) This is very common round here - two friends have fireplaces part-rendered, and it softens the look without making it contemporary.
My fireplace would have been this size once, like this one next door:
The battered brass pan in my hearth, with its great big iron handle, belonged to my great-grandmother, Sophie. It wasn't for jam-making, but for washing. She, and later my grandmother, my beloved Bonma, Rachel, would stand it on the back of the range at night, filled with cold water, a little soft soap, and all the small white items, socks, bibs, vests and the like, worn by the children that day.
It would heat gently through the night, and in the morning would be brought to the boil for a while and rinsed through. Bright white washing was - and remains - a point of pride in our family to this day. (Except that the Lovely Son doesn't bother, and uses that ecological detergent that gives you a perfect politically-correct excuse for dismally-grey white t-shirts and sheets....) It can hold logs now, and harbour some of the cottage's many spiders.
So that's my fireplace. Not to everyone's taste, of course, but not everyone will be living with it; it will suit me and the spiders just fine.