Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall

A Very Recusant Window: The chapel window at Burton Constable Hall

Iona Hart


This article explores the provenance, complex glazing history and recusant nature of the chapel window at Burton Constable Hall. Relying on a primary analysis of the glass itself, as well as wider research, it reveals that the chapel window is a previously unknown work of William Price the younger.  It is highly likely that the window was first installed in a Berkshire parish church in 1526, before being reglazed by Price, installed in Tixall Chapel in 1828 and then finally being relocated to the house chapel at Burton Constable Hall in 1844.


Located near Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the complex building history of Burton Constable Hall, its interiors and its furnishings have drawn much scholarly attention and research. However, there is one element in Burton Constable Hall that has been neglected: the chapel window. Following the relocation of the Clifford-Constable family from Tixall in Staffordshire, the window was moved from the freestanding chapel on their estate there, and installed at Burton Constable in 1844, during the refurbishment of the entire chapel. Very little is known about its history before this date.((“The Chapel at Burton Constable”, Hull Packet, Oct 04, 1844, 5.))

The Clifford-Constable family were devout, recusant Catholics who had opened up their house chapel at Tixall, Staffordshire, and later a newly constructed freestanding chapel on their estate, to the surrounding parish whilst the Catholic faith was outlawed.((“Roman Catholic Question,” Morning Post, Nov 12, 1822, 3.)) Thus, the decoration, including the glazing, of the most intimate, religious space in Burton Constable Hall, the chapel, was deeply considered. If unpicked, this reveals the family’s attitudes, priorities and perceptions of their Catholic faith within the nineteenth-century, a time of Catholic renewal and freedom.

The Chapel

The house chapel of St John the Baptist in Burton Constable Hall is situated at the north-west corner of the main Hall. The room was originally designed in 1774 as a billiard room and then altered into a coffee room in 1775.((Burton Constable Hall, Ground Plan of Burton Constable in the County of York, 1775, drawing, unknown size, Burton Constable Hall.)) It was only in 1844, once another branch of the family, the Clifford-Constables from Tixall, Staffordshire, had taken possession of the Hall, that the room was converted into the Roman Catholic chapel we see today.((“The chapel at Burton Constable,” Hull Packet, Oct 04, 1844, 5.))

This 1844 conversion from coffee room to chapel included sixteen painted coats of arms along the top of the walls representing the Clifford-Constable family and its close connections. The original two windows matching the Georgian façade were knocked out and replaced with a single central window designed to accommodate the stained glass that the family had brought from Tixall.

The chapel window, unusually, is located opposite, not above, the altar in the northern wall of the Hall. It is the only window within the chapel and the only window in the entire Hall to be glazed with stained glass.((Another stained glass window was also relocated from Tixall Chapel to Burton Constable Hall at the same time. However, this window is not glazed into the fabric of the hall but rather mounted on the inside of the original Georgian glazing. Extensive research was carried out on this second window by Lauren Healey in 2014 and the findings were published in Vidimus Issue 90.))


The Composition

The Chapel Window at Burton Constable Hall

Fig. 1 The Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

The composition of the window, shown in Fig. 1, can be broken down into three sections. The first section (Row 1) contains a repeated, complex, interlocking floral pattern and other embellishments set within an architectural surround.

Rows 2 and 3 show a number of figures positioned within grand architectural detailing. Lights A and D each contain a kneeling, praying, donor next to an altar, facing in toward the centre of the window. Each is dressed in clothes covered in heraldic devices which mirror the shields of arms carried by flying angels above them. The heraldry in Light A, shown in Fig. 2, depicts the Fettiplace family and the heraldry in Light D, shown in Fig. 3, represents both the Englefield and Waryng families, whose arms are quartered horizontally. Neither device has any connection to the heraldry painted on the chapel walls.

Rows 2 and 3 in light B contain the Throne of Mercy. Unusually, the Throne of Mercy in the chapel window does not contain the third person of the Trinity: the Dove. The absence of the third person of God is a significant omission. The dove would normally be located either at the top of the composition, or directly between Christ and the Father. Directly above Jesus’ head is a perfectly circular infill repair, which appears to be the subject of God the Father’s gaze (see Fig. 4). It is therefore likely that this circular infill once contained the Dove of the Holy Spirit, completing the familiar representation of the Throne of Mercy.


Angel Carrying a shield with Waryng and Englefield Heraldry

Fig. 2 Figure of an angel carrying a shield denoting the Fettiplace heraldry, light A, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 3 Figure of an angel carrying a shield denoting the Waryng and Englefield heraldry (cut horizontally), light D, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 3 Figure of an angel carrying a shield denoting the Waryng and Englefield heraldry (cut horizontally), light D, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 4 God the Father (partly by William Price the younger) and the circular infill above Christ’s head where the Dove may have originally been located, light B, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 4 God the Father (partly by William Price the younger) and the circular infill above Christ’s head where the Dove may have originally been located, light B, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 5 St Mary (by William Price the younger) and Christ (by unknown), light C, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 5 St Mary (by William Price the younger) and Christ (by unknown), light C, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Light C contains the Pietà, shown in Fig. 5.  Literally translated as ‘pity’, this subject emphasises the sorrow and sacrifice of Mary, the Queen of Martyrs, alongside ‘the promise of redemption through sacrifice’ through her role as mediatrix and co-Redemptrix.((Richard Marks, Image and Devotion in Late Medieval England (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2004): 137.))

Finally, there is the tracery which depicts two recurring patterns; a geometric diamond design encompassed in foliage on a silver stain background; and a stylised grape vine on a red flash background. Theologically, the grape vine represents the Eucharist.((“Eucharist,” Britannica, 2020, accessed Oct 14, 2020,




Fig. 6. A diagram describing the different glazing phases of the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844 (Diagram: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 6. A diagram describing the different glazing phases of the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844 (Diagram: © Iona Hart.)

The symbolic significance of the Eucharist through this vine pattern picks up the devotional, sacrificial and redemptive themes already portrayed through the depictions of Throne of Mercy and the Pietà in the main lights, suggesting that the family so greatly valued these theological themes that they devoted the entire window to them.

Though the window initially presents as a cohesive and brightly coloured design, upon closer inspection it quickly becomes apparent that the window is a composite of multiple painters and glaziers of varying time periods and abilities. This is perhaps most apparent when examining the window from the exterior. The author’s analysis of the groups of glass now incorporated in the chapel window is shown in Fig.6.


Cathedral Glass Infills

Approximately half of the main lights have been glazed with two different textures of cathedral glass, consisting of large and small, continuous, ‘bobbles’.((Cathedral glass is a term used to describe machine-made, textured glass that was first manufactured in the 1840s.)) When cross referenced with the painting style and techniques, it is clear that the cathedral glass sections have been glazed into an older scheme.

As the insertions are largely situated around the edges of the lights, it is tempting at first glance to assume that the cathedral glass insertions were added to ‘pack out’ the older scheme to enable it to fit into a larger opening. Upon closer inspection, however, it can be seen that there are several surviving areas of the older scheme that fill the full span of the lights, showing that it was originally at least as wide as the current width of the window. Thus, it is not the case that the cathedral glass insertions were added to enlarge the older scheme, as the insertions do not increase the original dimensions. It is highly likely that these cathedral glass insertions were added as repairs to the older scheme, reflecting some kind of extensive damage, most likely when it was transported from Tixall to Yorkshire.

William Price, the younger

Though the window has previously been attributed to William Peckitt,((“Burton Constable Hall,” Historic England, 2020, accessed Oct 14, 2020, .)) there is no documentary basis for this attribution, which has been challenged by Peckitt expert Dr Trevor Brighton.((Trevor Brighton, “William Peckitt’s Commission Book,” The Volume of the Walpole Society 54 (1988): 354.)) Close analysis of the glazing and painting techniques strongly points away from Peckitt.

Extensive stylistic and technical exploration reveals that a case can be made for William Price the younger as creator of at least part of this window. The distinctive glazing technique, the painting style, the loose, fluid, brush strokes, the use of sanguine on the nose, cheeks and lips are all comparable, and in some cases almost identical, to Price’s glazing in St Mary’s Church in Preston-on-Stour (1754), St Andrew’s Church on the Wimpole Estate (1750-60), Sir William Turner’s Hospital Chapel in Kirkleatham (1742) and New College chapel in Oxford (1735-40).((For visual comparisons of these four glazing schemes and the chapel window, Burton Constable Hall, please see Iona Hart, A Very Recusant Window: The Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, unpublished MA dissertation, University of York (2020) Figures 1.20 – 1.35.))

Medieval Fragments

There is also evidence of an even older glazing scheme within the window: some areas of the window are painted with enamel whilst other colour changes use separately glazed pot metal glass. There are also areas on the exterior of severe pitting and white corrosion product which is usually found on far older glass and is therefore highly unlikely to be coeval to William Price the younger.

Joseph Hale Miller

The eight tracery panels also appear to be additions to the original design of the window. Lauren Healy’s research reveals conclusive evidence that Joseph Hale Miller, a prolific, Catholic, stained glass painter in the nineteenth century, carried out glazing work for the Clifford-Constable family when they built a free-standing chapel next to Tixall Hall during the late 1820s, some of which has survived in the stained glass in the Long Gallery of Burton Constable Hall.((Lauren Healy, Catholic Collecting in 19th-Century England: The Impact of History on the Stained Glass of the Long Gallery, Burton Constable Hall, unpublished MA dissertation, University of York (2014): 53-56.)) Examples of Miller’s work can also be found in a tracery panel held in the Victoria and Albert Museum which are almost identical to four of the tracery panels depicting vines in the chapel window (panels A3, A4, A5 and A6).((V&A collection number: (C.232-1928).))  

Iconoclastic Infills

Finally, another phase of work can be identified, which includes the majority of the figures’ heads and some of their bodies, both heads of the angels, the head of the donor in panel 2a, part of God the Father’s crown, the head, right arm and legs of Christ in the Throne of Mercy and the head and torso of Christ in the Pietà. All feature similar paint work, suggesting they were made in the same studio at the same time.

The select placement and even dispersal of these pieces across the window is suggestive of iconoclastic vandalism of the figures rather than mechanical or unintentional damage.  

The Clifford-Constables and the creation of a composite window

With the passing of the Catholic Relief Act in 1791 and the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, Catholics were released from centuries of persecution and were able to openly practice their faith, resulting in a sort of ‘Catholic revival,’ theologically, practically and aesthetically.((David Mathew, Catholicism in England 1535-1935 (London: The Catholic Book Club, 1936): 156 and 174; Mary Heimann, Catholic Devotion in Victorian England (Sheffield: Clarendon, 1995): 5.)) This ‘Catholic aesthetic’ harked back to pre-Reformation, gothic architecture, with specific emphasis on the nationalistic and Catholic ‘pointed arch’.((Mary 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, no. 2 (1995): 191 and 193.)) This taste can be seen at the eighteenth and nineteenth-century private chapels of Melton Manor and Costessey Park, where new glazing schemes were assembled that were redolent of a Pre-Reformation heritage.

In order to explain how the Burton Constable chapel window illustrates this Catholic aestheic, an attempt must be made to establish the original provenance of the Burton Constable window.

St Mary’s, Childrey, (then) Berkshire

It is argued here that the window began its life in 1526, in Berkshire, as a commission from the Fettiplace family.

The two heraldic devices in the current window are depicted on the donors’ clothing and in shields held by angels above the donors and they relate not to the Clifford Constables, but to three families closely associated with Childrey; Fettiplace, Waryng and Englefield. These three families were connected through the female line; Alice Englefield was the mother of Joan Waryng (by her first marriage) who was the mother of Elizabeth Fettiplace.((June Maxwell Drummond, Childrey: A village in the Vale of White Horse, 2nd ed. (Oxon: June Maxwell Drummond, 2003): 17-18.)) These generations spanned the mid-fifteenth century to the early to mid-sixteenth century and were all associated with the village of Childrey, Oxfordshire (previously in Berkshire until 1947).

In 1526, William Fettiplace, Elizabeth’s husband, founded a chantry chapel in the fourteenth-century south transept of St Mary the Virgin in Childrey.((“Church of St Mary,” Historic England, 2020, accessed Oct 14, 2020, Both the three-light east (sIV) and four-light south (sV) window mullions date from the early sixteenth century, suggesting that these two windows were inserted and glazed or re-glazed as a part of the founding of the chantry.((Victoria County History, “Parishes: Childrey,” in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4, eds. William Page and P.H. Ditchfield, 272-279 (London: Victoria County History, 1924), accessed Oct 14, 2020,

The evidence discussed in the following paragraphs indicates that parts of this original 1526 window are glazed into what is now the chapel window of Burton Constable Hall, and that the original subject matter inspired Price’s new design for the window.

Firstly, though the shields are shaped in the voluptuous, curved form popular in the eighteenth century, there is reason to believe that the Fettiplace shield is medieval in origin. The top chevron apex touches the top of the shield which, as a rule, is not how chevrons are depicted in heraldry suggesting that the shape of the shield has been altered from its original design to fit the newer, fashionable, curved outline of the eighteenth century.((Christopher Vane, (The Chester Herald), email conversation with the author, Aug, 11, 2020.))

There are also issues with the right-hand shield denoting the Waryng and Englefield families. Ordinarily a shield representing two families is quartered vertically down the centre. However, the Englefield and Waryng shield is quartered horizontally. Chester Herald suggests that the reason for the horizontal quartering is because the shield denotes just the 2nd and 4th quarters of a larger shield.((Ibid.))  Indeed, there are several stone corbels in the Fettiplace chantry chapel at Childrey, that feature the Englefield and Waryng heraldry in the 2nd and 4th quarters, with other heraldry in the 1st and 3rd.

All these anomalies surrounding the heraldry in the window suggest that the Fettiplace shield and parts of the Englefield and Waryng drapery are of mid-sixteenth century origin. This matches what is known of Price’s methodology for working old glass into new designs.((Geoffrey Lane, “Recoloured Roundels?” Vidimus 17 (2008), accessed Oct 14, 2020,

The early sixteenth-century glazing techniques, the presence of medieval glass, the relevant subject matter and associations with the Fettiplace, Waryng and Englefield family all suggest that the current chapel window at Burton Constable Hall is Price’s adapation of sV in St Mary the Virgin, Childrey, from c.1526. The next logical question is how did it come to be in Price’s possession?

The Fettiplace family were well known Catholic recusants.  In April 1644, during the Civil War, the family hosted King Charles I at their manor.((Richard Symonds, Diary of the Marches of the Royal Army During the Great Civil War; Kept by Richard Symonds, edited by Charles Edward Long (London: The Camden Society, 1859): 3.)) Sometime after 1649, Parliamentarian troops were billeted at the rectory of St Mary the Virgin, Childrey, and stabled their horses within the church itself.((June Maxwell Drummond, Childrey: A village in the Vale of White Horse, 2nd ed. (Oxon: June Maxwell Drummond, 2003): 34.)) It is said that the church, and especially the stained glass, suffered great damage and vandalism, at the hands of the Parliamentarian forces, and it is likely the destructive efforts of the Purtians would have been directed against the royalist and recusant Fettiplace family’s chantry chapel.

It is highly unlikely that the Fettiplace family would have had the window re-glazed and reinstalled in the chapel thereafter. Records show that St Mary the Virgin, Childrey, made efforts to remove ‘the communion and pulpit cloths’ in order to fall in line with the new, Puritan aesthetic.((Julie Spraggon, Puritan Iconoclasm during the English Civil War (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003): 102.)) Re-glazing a window with religious iconography that had been destroyed or removed precisely because of its medieval iconography and royalist associations is very unlikely. Instead, it is far more likely that the window was removed and boarded up until funds could be raised to glaze it with plain quarries, as was the practice in many other churches at the time.((David King, “Some Sixteenth-Century Heraldic Glass-Painting in Norfolk,” Vidimus 124 (2019), accessed Oct 14, 2020.

Edward Pococke and the Oxford colleges

William Price the younger’s acquisition of the remains of the Childrey window could very well have been due to his connections to the Oxford colleges. The rector of Childrey at the time of Parliamentarian destruction of the church was the illustrious Hebrew and Arabic scholar, Edward Pococke, whose career was centred around Oxford University.((G.J. Toomer, “Pococke, Edward,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2008, accessed Oct 14, 2020, The Fettiplaces themselves also had links with the University of Oxford, particularly Queen’s College, to whom they had endowed property.((June Maxwell Drummond, Childrey: A village in the Vale of White Horse, 2nd ed. (Oxon: June Maxwell Drummond, 2003): 33.))

These links with the Oxford colleges are significant because the Price family also had ties to them. Both William Price the elder and Joshua Price (William Price the younger’s grandfather and father respectively) glazed and repaired windows for Christ Church, Merton and Queen’s College chapels. Price the younger continued in their footsteps, working in Magdalen, Wadham and New College chapels.((Christopher Woodforde, The Stained Glass of New College, Oxford (London: Oxford University Press, 1951): 19.)) It is through these mutual Oxford college links that the Price family could have obtained the remains of the 1526 Childrey window.

Price’s Reworking of the Window

Fig. 7. William Price the younger, the ornamental section at the bottom of each light, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

Fig. 7. William Price the younger, the ornamental section at the bottom of each light, the Chapel Window, Burton Constable Hall, 1526-1844. (Image: © Iona Hart.)

However, it was obtained, the window must have been severely damaged during the Civil Wars: very little medieval glass has been incorporated into the design we see today. There is a difference of approximately 370mm in height and 124mm in width between the dimensions of the Childrey aperture and Burton Constable Hall’s chapel window; and the original trefoil headers have been glazed into cinquefoil ones. The entire lower third of the main lights are pure Price ornamentation (Fig. 7). This entire section of the window must have been so damaged that Price could not discern its original subject matter, or else it was completely lost.

Despite this, Price was still able to discern that the window originally comprised four lights, depicting the Throne of Mercy and the Pietà with donors dressed in the Fettiplace, Waryng and Englefield heraldry. He then worked the surviving medieval glass from these subjects into the new window, adopting the medieval styling of the donors and subjects, as previously discussed.




The Missing Years

Due to the window size and cinquefoil head discrepancies, it is clear that the ‘new’ Price design was not re-installed in Childrey. The question that follows therefore, is for whom and for what location was Price designing this new window? This part of the window’s history still remains a mystery. Price the younger worked from the mid-1720s until 1761.((Michael Archer, “Stained Glass at Erddig and the Work of William Price,” Apollo 122, no. 284 (1985): 261.)) The next known location of the window is in Tixall’s freestanding chapel which was completed in 1828, leaving a gap of at least 57 years unaccounted for.

Unfortunately, the geographical spread of Price’s commissions throughout his career is quite large, making it nigh impossible to speculate as to even the approximate location for the window based on his other commissions. It is also very difficult to establish when in Price’s career he might have designed the window. For most of his working life, he had at least two projects on the go at once and stylistic comparisons, at best, are extremely subjective.

There is one clue as to what happened to the window before it was installed in Tixall Chapel. All of the heads of the figures in the window, with the exception of St Mary, have been replaced after Price’s original glazing, and all but one of these replacements are from the same glazing scheme. The fact that these infills are exclusively located on the heads and bodies of the figures and not on any of the surrounding architectural details or ornamental embellishment strongly suggests that the window was victim to iconoclastic vandalism for a second time. This damage is likely to have occurred after Price’s redesign but before the window was installed in Tixall Chapel. Large numbers of family letters survive from the Clifford-Constables and damage to the stained glass window, deliberate or otherwise, is never mentioned, so it is unlikely that the window sustained such damage during their ownership.

Tixall Hall, Staffordshire

The Clifford-Constables had officially converted to the Roman Catholic faith in 1638.((Alan Bloor, “The Prosperous Years, 1555-1638,” in The Beautiful Gothic Window: “All Our Stories” Project AS-12-02032, ed. the Haywood Society, 19-25, unpublished research, 2014: 24.)) They maintained a house chapel within the various incarnations of Tixall Hall from at least 1748 with Catholic priests visiting from as early as 1629.((Peter Emberton and Margaret Whitehouse, “150 Years on the Outskirts, Penal Times, 1638-1791,” in The Beautiful Gothic Window: “All Our Stories” Project AS-12-02032, ed. the Haywood Society, 37-50, unpublished research, 2014: 37; Annette Bloor, “150 Years on the Outskirts, Penal Times, 1638-1791,” in The Beautiful Gothic Window: “All Our Stories” Project AS-12-02032, ed. the Haywood Society, 27-30, unpublished research, 2014: 27.)) Upon the passing of the Catholic Relief Act, in 1791, the house chapel was immediately and proudly registered by the family chaplain, George Beeston.((Anne Andrews, A History of Tixall: 3. Tixall’s Halls and their Owners (Stafford: Hanyards Press, 2018): 85.)) However, although the Act permitted the celebration of Mass, in a house chapel no more than ‘five outsiders’ could attend which still left the Parish restricted in their worship.((David Mathew, Catholicism in England 1535-1935 (London: The Catholic Book Club, 1936): 156.))

Thus, a new freestanding Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to Ste. Marie, to the south of Tixall Hall, was commissioned and finished by 1829.((Harold Potter, “The Building of the Chapel,” in The Beautiful Gothic Window: “All Our Stories” Project AS-12-02032, ed. the Haywood Society, 69-86, unpublished research, 2014: 69.)) A painting from c.1830 shows a four-light window with eight perpendicular tracery panels in the south wall of the south chapel of this new freestanding chapel, identical to the chapel window in Burton Constable Hall.((The Landmark Trust, Tixall Gatehouse: History Album, 3rd ed., unpublished research, 2013: 36 and 39.)) In 1845, following the Clifford-Constable’s departure for Burton Constable, Tixall Chapel was moved to the local village of Great Haywood, which saw this window’s mullions reinstalled within the east window, over the main altar, with plain glazing replacing the stained glass.((“Roman Catholic Church of St John the Baptist,” Historic England, 2020, accessed Oct 14, 2020, .)) The approximate measurements of this window are within centimetres of the measurements of the chapel window at Burton Constable Hall. Therefore, it is highly probable that Price’s window was installed in the small south chapel of Tixall Chapel in the late 1820s.

Removal to Burton Constable Hall, East Riding

Upon the sale of the Tixall estate in 1845, it was specifically stipulated in the sales catalogue that the family retained the ownership of all ‘the painted glass in the Chapel’((Beverly, East Riding Archives, DDCC/126/91, The Tixall Estate Sale Catalogue, 1833.)) which was moved to the Clifford-Constable’s newly inherited residence of Burton Constable Hall, East Yorkshire.((Haywood Society, “Addendum: The Stained Glass of Tixall and Burton Constable,” in The Beautiful Gothic Window: “All Our Stories” Project AS-12-02032, ed. the Haywood Society, 131-142, unpublished research, 2014: 131 and 138.)) The window was then installed in the newly converted chapel in 1844, most likely at the same time that the cathedral glass infills were inserted. Other glass from the Tixall chapel, outside the scope of this discussion, was displayed in the Long Gallery.((See note 12.))

Though there is evidence of twentieth-century repair infills, the window has since remained in the chapel at Burton Constable Hall for the past 176 years.

The Family’s Relationship with the Window

The window has had a turbulent history. It bears the shields of a very prominent, royalist recusant family whose chantry chapel and parish church was devastated by Parliamentarian forces. The figures in the window were then subjected to further iconoclastic damage at some point in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, when Catholic traditions of religious imagery were forbidden. The subject matter is highly devotional and of a Catholic nature, as it portrays the three persons of the Trinity and St Mary and on the same scale, side by side. Each of these elements would have been incredibly poignant to the Clifford-Constables, who had only very recently been free to practise their own Catholic faith, having previously surreptitiously worshipped in their illegal house chapel at Tixall Hall.

It is clear that with the Catholic Relief Act in 1791, the family took full advantage of their new freedom by constructing a freestanding chapel ‘of considerable size and elegance’((See note 2.)) for the use of the local parish and openly advertising High Mass there in the Staffordshire Advertiser.((“Tixall Chapel,” Staffordshire Advertiser, Oct 21, 1837, 2.)) This was not a timid family, afraid to upset Protestant feeling, but rather a family incredibly proud and passionate about their Catholic faith, who took every opportunity to proclaim its pre-eminent and ancient roots. Thus, by installing a window which could be considered a pre-Reformation ‘relic’ in the chapel, the family were worshipping, quite literally, in the light of the ancient Catholic faith, a tradition which was being continued through themselves.

The Clifford-Constables also used the newly completed interior decoration of the chapel at Burton Constable Hall in partnership with the window to further accentuate the family’s connections with the Catholic faith. Along the top of the east, west and north walls of the chapel are sixteen painted coats of arms, all of which relate to the recent history of the Clifford-Constables and their French, Catholic connections. By visually aligning the family’s heraldry on the walls with the historic recusant heraldry in the window, the Clifford-Constables were declaring that they shared the same undying loyalty to the Catholic religion as those who endured persecution and alienation from society during and after the Reformation. 

Thus, the chapel window at Burton Constable Hall is not just an aesthetic decoration or a religious object. Rather, it was the Clifford-Constable’s claim to their Roman Catholic lineage, the ancient faith of the land, which, until a few decades previously, had been persecuted and oppressed. This was the family’s opportunity to bear witness to their Catholic faith through the ‘old aesthetic’ as a devotional act of worship to God.


There are still many areas needing further exploration which are beyond the scope of the article. The location of the window in the ‘missing years’ before its installation at Tixall Hall chapel: whether it did undergo iconoclastic damage, as proposed, and why. There is also scope to examine the relationship between the chapel window and the stained glass in the Long Gallery. Both these glazing schemes were specifically purchased and installed in close proximity to each other in the freestanding chapel at Tixall Hall, alongside a great deal more glass which is currently unaccounted for. Their move to Burton Constable Hall saw the two schemes completely separated; one to a very public, formal setting and the other to an intimate, religious setting. An examination of their current position and treatment in Burton Constable Hall, their previous setting at Tixall Chapel and the decision to bring just these two schemes from Tixall could reveal even more about the religious preferences and priorities of the Clifford-Constable family.

Through the discoveries of the chapel window’s provenance and its relationship to the Clifford-Constable family, it is greatly hoped that the wider public – specifically those who visit Burton Constable Hall, as well as St John the Baptist in Great Haywood and St Mary the Virgin in Childrey – will be able to better appreciate the devotional and ancient nature of this Very Recusant Window.


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