Catholic Collecting in Nineteenth-Century England: The Stained Glass of the Long Gallery, Burton Constable Hall
The stained-glass panels in the bay window of the Long Gallery at Burton Constable Hall, East Yorkshire, have remained an enigma for a number of years (Fig. 1). The panels have a complex and somewhat undetermined history, an aspect thrown into relief on closer analysis of the imagery and current configuration of the glass. Following the movements of the recusant Clifford Constable family from their ancestral home in Tixall (Staffordshire) to their inherited estate of Burton Constable, the panels have been relocated on a number of occasions, in addition to their initial journey to England from Continental Europe. The Long Gallery bay-window glass exemplifies the trend for the importation of stained glass prevalent after the secularization on mainland Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when much stained glass was brought over and added to English buildings and collections.
Although my study was initially focused on unearthing the later history of the Long Gallery stained glass, through analysis of the material and research I was eventually able to put forward a proposal concerning the origins and earlier history of the glass, with the material being of early sixteenth-century date, German, and more specifically from the Cologne area. Here however I will focus on the nineteenth-century history of the Long Gallery panels and how it coordinates with the movements of the Clifford Constable family. Specifically, I will establish their location and configuration within the Tixall estate, the family’s home prior to Burton Constable Hall. This is a particularly difficult task, given that the Tixall estate buildings were largely demolished in 1927.
Burton Constable Hall
Burton Constable Hall, an Elizabethan mansion located in Skirlaugh in the East Riding of Yorkshire, has long been the seat of the Constable family (Fig. 2). The current building was largely constructed in the second half of the sixteenth century, but the house saw considerable interior remodelling during the eighteenth century under the ownership of William Constable (1721–91), and also in the nineteenth century. The Constable family are said to have been ‘the most influential’ of the Catholic families within the parish, regularly accommodating worshippers within the hall’s private chapel. The inheritance of Burton Constable Hall by a cousin in the family, Sir Thomas Hugh Clifford (1762–1823) of Tixall, continued the Catholic connection; on Sir Thomas’s death in 1823 the estate passed to his son, Sir Thomas Aston Clifford Constable. It was during the latter’s ownership that the historic stained glass came to be installed in the Long Gallery of Burton Constable Hall after the family seat was moved from Tixall to the Yorkshire estate in the 1830s. Exactly when this happened, or where the glass was previously located, has remained uncertain until now.
The stained glass of the Long Gallery has remained relatively unknown, with little concrete information available regarding its history or creation. Previous unpublished research has addressed the glass and its movement between estates over time, with some attempts made to understand its past. Few definitive sources exist concerning the glass, though a small number of archival documents and some primary material have provided information. Prior to this study, the evidence supplied by the primary material – the glass itself – had not been fully utilized. I therefore applied a multi-disciplinary approach during the study, undertaking archival research alongside direct examination and analysis of the glass.
The Current Window: Considering Composition
The Long Gallery of Burton Constable Hall has a lavishly decorated interior that reflects the various stages of intervention by a number of occupants over the years. The stained glass is a key feature of this sumptuous décor, which also typifies the antiquarian aspect of Catholic collecting. The stained glass is situated within the bay window at the south end of the Long Gallery, a prominent position that means that the glass is immediately visible upon entry into the gallery (Fig. 3). The glass is installed to the interior of the existing plain glazing, with twenty-four panels filling the bottom two rows of the window. The upper row contains eight, large single panels, and the lower row contains sixteen panels, with two panels in each compartment (Fig. 4).
The stained glass of the bay window presents an interesting amalgamation of styles and iconographies. The content of the glass can initially be divided into the two groups in which it is currently arranged, in the upper and lower rows: the upper panels (3a–h) portray a collection of sibyls each atop an inscription and framed with a decorative border; the lower rows of panels (1a–h and 2a–h) contain significantly larger religious figures, either depicted within a scene or pictured standing behind a group of small donors and their associated heraldry (Fig. 5). It is clear upon initial observation of the window that the stained glass has experienced various installations and was not originally designed for the Long Gallery openings. The original panels are easily identifiable, being distinctly narrower than the Long Gallery window compartments; they were clearly initially too tall for the Burton Constable openings, resulting in the overlapping of the panels in the lower row of the window (Fig. 6). The white-glass borders added to the horizontal and vertical edges of the majority of the original panels in both rows are evidence of the adaptation required for installation at Burton Constable. In addition, these borders highlight the previous curved head shapes of the panels, which are clearly indicative of one or more earlier installations (Fig. 7).
Although it could be assumed that these head shapes are indicative of the original installation of the glass, close observation suggests that the original panels are likely to have been rectangular in shape, with the intricate head shapes being later additions to allow installation of the glass into different openings. This can be seen for example in panel 2a, where later insertions have been added specifically to create the intricate head shape of the panel (Fig. 8). Similar cases can be seen in a number of the lower panels where pieces have been trimmed and new insertions introduced in order to manipulate the head shape of the panel, suggesting their past adaptation on more than one occasion. It is clear that as well as the white-glass additions, the upper row of sibyls has seen considerable alteration in the form of decorative nineteenth-century borders and replacement inscriptions.
Analysis of the panels’ content and imagery, in addition to the visible clues (such as corresponding panel head shapes and colours), hints at the original groupings of glass, and also highlights the incorrect iconographic configuration of the panels in their current installation. As was often the case, many of the panels appear to have been arranged purely on aesthetic rather than symbolic or artistic grounds.
A small number of archival documents relating to the later history of the glass, including its transition to Britain, survive, and these provide significant clues to the movement of the glass during the nineteenth century. It is widely assumed that following the Clifford family’s inheritance of Burton Constable in 1821 (and their subsequent surname change to Clifford Constable), the glass was removed from their previous home in Tixall, brought to their new Yorkshire estate, and installed in the Long Gallery window. A move such as this would suggest the importance of the stained glass to the family, both in terms of its monetary value (which is likely to have been considerable) and also as a symbol of their religious struggles and success. The period of Catholic emancipation in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw a surge of religious decoration as recusants were finally able to announce themselves as supporters of the Catholic faith, and the installation of historic Continental, and most importantly, Catholic stained glass, was an ultimate symbol of this.
The primary piece of evidence suggesting that the Burton Constable glass was previously located at Tixall is a model of Tixall Hall and its Catholic chapel made c.1840 by Miss Eliza Chichester, the sister-in-law of Thomas Aston Clifford Constable, who was instrumental in the Catholic chapel’s construction (Fig. 9). This model remains on display at Burton Constable and is an impressive survival, providing a contemporary view of two of the principal Tixall estate buildings that no longer exist today. Although the precise date of the model is not confirmed, it can be assumed that the likeness was created while the chapel stood in the grounds at Tixall, several years after its completion. The presence of much stained glass in Eliza’s model supports the suggestion that the Long Gallery stained glass came from the free-standing Catholic chapel at Tixall.
This is further supported by the fact that on the sale of the Tixall lands, the Catholic chapel was relocated to the village of Great Haywood in 1845, where it still stands today as St John the Baptist parish church, just a few miles away from the estate (Fig. 10). The stained glass that had been installed in the chapel at Tixall was however removed at this point, and the chapel was reconstructed in its new location with plain-glazed windows. It would seem therefore that the stained glass from the chapel was retained by the family and is likely to have been installed in their new home at Burton Constable.
Further evidence comes in the form of a lithograph in the Burton Constable collection that dates to 1840 and depicts the Long Gallery prior to the installation of stained glass in the bay window. This suggests that the glass was installed at Burton Constable post-1840, and is consistent with the suggestions that the glass was retained by the family when the chapel was moved, and that it was installed in the Tixall chapel prior to its installation in the Long Gallery window.
Context: The Stained Glass Trade
The redistribution of historic religious property and artworks following the monastic secularization in Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was on a vast scale. It is likely that the Burton Constable glass was transported and sold as part of the stained-glass trade, which expanded rapidly in the early nineteenth century following the Peace of Amiens in 1802, a treaty that ended conflict between Britain and the countries of mainland Europe and allowed a rebirth of trade across the Continent.
John Christopher Hampp, a German textile merchant living in Norwich, and his trade partner, Seth William Stevenson, were key contributors to the influx of Continental stained glass into Britain. Although the Burton Constable glass is not referred to specifically, an entry in one of Hampp’s few remaining account books refers to the purchase of some Continental stained glass by ‘Mr Clifford’ for £21 on 28 February 1803, listed underneath the heading ‘Mr. Stevenson sold in London’. Described only as ‘Annunciation’, the reference offers little information aside from the iconography, which does not correlate with the glass now installed in the Burton Constable bay window. However this information does establish that Thomas Hugh Clifford is likely to have purchased Continental glass, potentially for installation in his chapel at Tixall Hall. The presence of the corresponding reference in the accounts of Thomas Hugh Clifford, referring to the payment of £21 to ‘Wm Stevenson’ in March of the same year, confirms the transaction. At this point in time, the chapel at Tixall was located within the house itself, having existed there for many years in order to serve the local Catholic community.
Through years of religious oppression the Cliffords had opened up their private chapel to local worshippers. The acquisition of religious imagery had previously been prohibited as a result of the Reformation. Following increasing Catholic tolerance and the granting of freedom of worship in 1791 however, Thomas Hugh and his fellow Catholics could openly declare their faith. In purchasing the Continental stained glass Thomas Hugh was embracing this change, as he could finally furnish his home in the way to best serve his religious needs.
An 1807 Gentleman’s Magazine account of the sale of foreign stained glass at Pall Mall states that Mr Clifford ‘has filled the windows of his chapel at Tixhall, with whole length figures, &c. coeval with the building’. This might suggest a secondary purchase of a larger amount of Continental stained glass following the initial purchase from Hampp and Stevenson, which was seemingly also installed in the chapel within the house at Tixall. With the house no longer standing today and no evidence available regarding the window openings or the architectural structure of the chapel at this stage, linking either reference to the current glass at Burton Constable is difficult. However, there is certainly a possibility that the ‘whole length figures’ mentioned here refer to the larger saints in the lower rows of the Long Gallery window, which have clearly been adapted on numerous occasions to fit a variety of window openings.
Unfortunately, little specific evidence exists regarding the earlier chapel in the house at Tixall, due primarily to the need to keep it hidden during the years of Catholic persecution. It is therefore particularly challenging to establish with certainty the location of the glass in the years immediately following its probable movement and purchase from the Continent. The archival evidence that does remain primarily concerns the later, free-standing Catholic chapel, which was built on the Tixall estate in the late 1820s. The construction of this separate chapel was a fundamental turning point in the process of Catholic emancipation for the Clifford family, who could finally embrace their religious beliefs through the establishment of a private chapel beside their home.
The Role of the Glass
Correspondence between Thomas Hugh and his architect in 1822 suggests that plans for the new Catholic chapel had been in motion for a number of years, and it is clear that Thomas Hugh’s intention was to install a significant amount of his stained glass within the chapel, about which he was particularly passionate. However, his untimely death in early 1823 meant that plans for the chapel were halted, and due to a lack of further archival evidence, to what extent his wishes were carried out regarding the chapel – and the stained glass – is unknown. Family correspondence does however imply that at this point work on the chapel may have already begun: in August 1822 Thomas Hugh’s daughter Mary Barbara wrote to her cousin, Eliza Chichester that ‘the new Chapel will not be continued at present’. However a number of the specific requests made by Thomas Hugh in the 1822 correspondence about the building’s design and detailing are reflected in later artistic representations of the chapel, as well as in the appearance of St John the Baptist today. This suggests that a number of Thomas Hugh’s particular requests are likely to have been carried out, and that the work was simply completed under the direction of Thomas Aston Clifford Constable after his father’s death.
Although a variety of evidence does exist regarding the final building phase of the chapel, the surviving drawings and engravings vary, and fail to clarify the final appearance of the chapel, whether the Long Gallery stained glass was installed within the space, or where the glass would have been specifically located. Aside from suggesting that the chapel did indeed contain stained glass, the presence of considerable amounts of coloured ‘glass’ in Eliza Chichester’s model of Tixall does not aid in specifically establishing the position of the Long Gallery glass within the scheme. However, an essential document located in the Chichester Constable family and estate records offers certain information regarding the position of the stained glass in the free-standing chapel at Tixall: ‘An Account of Extra Works beyond the Contract done by the Plaintiff to the Mansion House, at the Stables and in the Chapel.’ This document details a number of alterations made to the original plans for the building under the control of Thomas Aston following his father’s death, and provides a useful point of reference for the adaptation of the chapel design to accommodate the stained glass. In particular it states: ‘Windows altered on both sides of the Sanctuary for Stained Glass’, and ‘The Oriel Window in Altar Recess – glazed with ground glass and alterations for same which were to have been of Stained Glass’. It is clear from this that among others, the ‘Oriel’ or bay window was to be filled with ‘ground glass’ or plain glass, rather than stained glass. Instead, the windows either side of the sanctuary were to be adapted to house stained glass.
However, inconsistencies in the depictions of the sanctuary windows in the various pieces of evidence cause further problems. A c.1830 elevation discovered in the records of Burton Constable, displaying what appears to be the free-standing chapel at Tixall and bearing the signature of the architect Joseph Ireland, depicts the north face of the building, seems to show a four-light window divided by a horizontal transom in the sanctuary opening that, in combination with the same opening on the south side, would provide sufficient space for installation of the Long Gallery panels (Fig. 11). However, Eliza’s model of the building contains five-light windows, whereas in two 1841 drawings of the chapel by J. Buckler, the north sanctuary window appears to be a three-light opening, and the south window made up of four lights. It is clear from the variety of depictions that there can be no certainty regarding the exact appearance of the windows when the Catholic chapel stood at Tixall.
Although the evidence provided by St John the Baptist parish church must be viewed with care, owing to the clear changes in the building’s layout since its time at Tixall, the fact that the only remaining north sanctuary window (the south window opening was lost when the rectory was built adjoining the church) contains four lights separated by a horizontal transom – thereby creating eight compartments for glass – cannot be ignored (Fig. 12). In addition to the previously discussed archival evidence, this indication is supplemented by the discovery of a large number of stained glass fragments in the stores of Burton Constable Hall during the period of this study (Figs 13 and 14). These clearly originate from the Long Gallery panels: the painted designs are clearly continuations of the nineteenth-century yellow-stained floral motif visible in the border of the upper sibyl panels, and also in the curved head pieces of the lower row of panels (Fig. 15). Other green and blue fragments are excess pieces of the decorative border found in the upper panels, and appear to have previously functioned as lower borders to these sibyl panels. The presence of these pieces at Burton Constable suggests that they are likely to have been removed from the panels in the mid-1840s, after their removal from the chapel at Tixall and before their installation in the Long Gallery window. At the same time, the necessary white-glass borders and inserts will have been added to the panels to allow them properly to fill the Long Gallery openings.
A reconstruction of the panels as they would have appeared in the Tixall chapel openings, with these fragments inserted, almost certainly confirms that the glass was originally installed in the chapel sanctuary windows, owing to the head shapes of the panels, which correspond to openings visible at St John the Baptist. Approximate measurements of the lower compartments of the St John the Baptist window openings correspond very closely to the dimensions of the Long Gallery panels with these fragments inserted (and without their white-glass borders). As a result, the appearance and composition of the glass during its time within Tixall chapel can be proposed. Although they can never be confirmed, several reconstructions can be suggested in terms of the arrangement of the panels within the sanctuary windows. It is possible that the current Long Gallery composition reflects the Tixall chapel installation, and that the glass was installed in this manner but split between two windows (Fig. 16). However, other possible arrangement(s), according to similarly shaped panel heads, and the grouping together of certain colours, can also be put forward. Confirming in which exact arrangement the panels were installed is however impossible without more detailed pictorial or documentary evidence of the chapel during its time at Tixall.
This study almost certainly confirms that the Long Gallery stained glass of Burton Constable Hall had indeed previously been installed in the Catholic chapel on the Tixall estate, and more specifically in the sanctuary windows either side of the altar. In addition, it highlighted the importance attributed to the glass by the Clifford Constable family, who undoubtedly saw this Continental glass as a symbol of their religious independence. The glass represents a number of important phases in the history of stained glass, each of which can be seen within the panels today and adds significantly to their interest. Their likely involvement in the activities of Hampp and Stevenson places them within an important phase of trade between Britain and the Continent, which took place during a period of history dominated by religious wars and persecution both in Europe and Britain – the ultimate reason for the initial movement of the glass from the Continent, and effectively the reason for its purchase by the Clifford family and its presence at Burton Constable today.
My sincerest thanks go to Sarah Brown and Ivo Rauch for their advice and support throughout my master’s course; Kelly Wainwright of the Burton Constable Foundation for her guidance during my visits to view the Long Gallery stained glass; Alan and Annette Bloor for sharing the results of their research with me; Terry Bloxham at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and Jo Dillon at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. I also extend my thanks to the East Riding Archives, Beverley, and the William Salt Library in Stafford for their help and support during my research; and to the Headley Trust, without whose generosity I could not have completed the course.
1. Peter Laurence Martin, ‘The European Trade in Stained Glass, with Special Reference to the Trade between the Rhineland and the United Kingdom 1794–1835’ (MPhil thesis, University of York, 2012), 41.
2. Clayre Percy, Charlotte Haslam and Caroline Stanford, Tixall Gatehouse: History Album, The Landmark Trust, 2013, 2.
3. East Yorkshire Local History Society, Burton Constable Hall: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Hull, 1998, 4; Ivan Hall and Elisabeth Hall, Burton Constable Hall: A Century of Patronage, Beverley, 1991, 12.
4. G. H. R. Kent (ed.), A History of the County of York East Riding, VII: Holderness Wapentake, Middle and North Divisions, Oxford, 2002, 137.
5. Ivan Hall, Burton Constable, Peterborough, 1994, 2.
6. Annette Bloor, ‘A Decade of Gain and Loss. 1820-1830’, in The Beautiful Gothic Window: “All Our Stories” Project AS-12-02032, unpublished research, The Haywood Society, 2014, 63.
7. William White, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Staffordshire, Sheffield, 1851 (2nd edn), 416; available online, accessed February 27, 2014.
8. ‘Treaty of Amiens’, Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d., accessed 3 July 2014. See also Martin, ‘European Trade in Stained Glass’ (as n. 1), 1.
9. Ernest A. Kent, “John Christopher Hampp of Norwich.” Journal of the British Society of Master Glass-Painters, VI/4 (1937), 191–96, here 191–93. Mary B. Shepard, “‘Our Fine Gothic Magnificence’: The Nineteenth-Century Chapel at Costessey Hall (Norfolk) and Its Medieval Glazing’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 54/ii (1995), 186–207, here 187.
10. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books: Account Book of John Hampp 1802–1804.
11. Beverley, East Riding Archives, Chichester-Constable family and estate records, DDCC/147/20: Account Book of Thomas Clifford 1802–1812.
12. Michael Greenslade, Catholic Staffordshire 1500–1850, Leominster, 2006, 183.
13. Virginia Chieffo Raguin, Catholic Collecting, Catholic Reflection 1538–1850, Worcester MA, 2006, 6.
14. Greenslade, Catholic Staffordshire (as n. 12), 206.
15. ‘Stained Glass’, The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle, January 1807, 408; available online, accessed 5 August 2014.
16. Beverley, East Riding Archives, Chichester-Constable family and estate records, DDCC/144/57: letter from Thomas Constable, Ghent, to William Brown, architect, Melford, nr. Stafford, relating to the building of a bow window and a chapel.
17. Bloor, ‘Gain and Loss’ (as n. 6), 63.
18. Beverley, East Riding Archives, Chichester-Constable family and estate records, DDCC/144/31: original bundle of letters to Eliza Chichester 1814–1840.
19. Beverley, East Riding Archives, Chichester-Constable family and estate records, DDCC/153/1A/10: papers relating to work done at Tixall Mansion House.