Photo credit Steve West

New to the Castle in 2021, our Stained Glass Studio has now opened in the East Wing at Highcliffe Castle. This studio has been set up to enable the conservation of our large stained glass collection, which was once owned by Lord Stuart de Rothesay. 

The stained glass formed an integral part of Lord Stuart’s collection of arts and antiquities that he used to furnish the Castle in the 1830s. Whilst the majority of his paintings, tapestries and sculptures are no longer part of the Castle’s collection, the stained glass remained in situ during the subsequent owner’s tenures.

The glass was only removed after the fires of the late 1960s, when it was salvaged by the Norfolk Glass Studio, King and Sons. They safely stored the glass until returning it to the owners of Highcliffe Castle during the 1990s.

The Jesse Tree Window in the Great Hall was conserved and reinstalled in 1998.  However, the stained glass which would have adorned many other state rooms around the Castle has remained in storage until now.

The Collection

Lord Stuart collected stained glass from across Europe, as well as closer to home. The collection features local pieces from Christchurch, as well as those from France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Most of the stained glass is also a lot older than the Castle itself, with pieces dating between c1400 and 1840.

There are approximately 150 pieces within the entire stained glass collection, of which more than 100 require conservation. These panels were originally displayed in the Ante Library, Wintergarden, Drawing Room and the Oriel Window.

Images of the Oriel Window. Photo from Castle Archive.

Religeous figure

The collection includes both large and small-scale panels. Some of the smaller pieces include Roundels, such as this example of St James the Great. This roundel is Flemish and can be dated to c1520-30. Roundels are characterised as small paintings, which are normally produced on one piece of glass. Roundels are not always round and were also produced as ovals, rectangles, and in many other shapes. They were mass produced during the Renaissance, but were particularly popular in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

Roundel depicting St James the Great, Flemish, c1520-30. Photo from Castle Archive.

Religeous figure
Stained glass panel of the Magi Mary and Jesus

An example of a larger panel within the collection is this one from the cloister of the Mariawald Abbey in Germany.  This Abbey was dissolved in 1794 and its stained glass sold at auction in Cologne. This panel depicts the Adoration of the Magi and is exquisitely painted.  Other panels from this Cloister can be seen in the V&A Museum in London. It demonstrates the quality of the artefacts that Lord Stuart de Rothesay was collecting.

The Adoration of the Magi, Mariawald Abbey, Germany c1520-30. Photo credit Steve West.

Coat of Arms

Much of the stained glass depicts heraldic iconography. These small pieces were made by Charles Holloway, Master Glazier in Christchurch. Lord Stuart commissioned many Coats of Arms to depict his family’s lineage and marital alliances. These were displayed in the windows of the Dining and Drawing Rooms.

Coat of Arms of Stuart and Windsor, Christchurch, England c1835. Photo from Castle Archive.

Coat of Arms

The current project

Stained Glass in workshop

Our resident conservator has been tasked with conserving the damaged stained glass in our collection, in order to display it in a permanent exhibition.

Our Stained Glass Conservator at work Photo credit Steve West.

Old damaged stained glass

The types of damage suffered by the stained glass panels include corrosion, breaks and missing pieces, soot and smoke damage, flaking paint, lead corrosion and loss, and surface mould.

Examples of damage seen on the stained glass, flaking enamel paint and broken glass. Photo from Castle Archive.

Old damaged stained glass
old stained glass

It is interesting to note that more of the glass breaks have been caused by impacts, rather than directly by effects of flames and heat.

An example of a badly damaged panel, Swiss Kabinettscheibe with St James the Great and St John the Evangelist, c1600-1650. Photo from Castle Archive.

Now you have read about our exquisite collection, please do come and view the studio in person as part of the visitor route.