About two years ago my colleague Daru wrote a blog explaining some of the history behind the Butterfield Window at Cliffe Castle, what had happened to it and talked about our ambitions for the restoration
You can read that blog here
I’m sitting here 6 months on from completing the restoration project we’d been planning, and looking back at the project and what we’ve achieved. As the Keighley Arts and Film Festival in early October is taking as its theme ‘Our Window on the World, it seemed an apt time to reflect on our window!
Even though it is a rainy day as I type, the window now is a riot of colour – and on sunny days, we have rainbows of coloured light dancing on the stairs.
The project began in earnest in May 2018, as the Scaffolding went up, and the window became shrouded from view for the next 9 months….
The first thing to happen was the removal of the historic glass, which the wonderful Jonathan Cooke was conserving for us. We are very lucky to have such a wonderful Stained glass conservator based just down the road from us – it made studio visits to see the progress of the conservation, and to discuss the new panels fairly simple to arrange (and always fascinating.
Once Jonathan had safely removed the glass, it was the turn of Stone-Edge to start the remedial work of the stone structure that housed the window. Some pieces were stabilised – others had to be recarved.
Once in the studio conservation cleaning was carried out on the historic glass including the removal of paint splashes and grime. Seeing Henry Isaac Butterfield finally without the splashes of decades old paint was wonderful.
Viewing the central panel up close on the lightbox at Jonathan’s studio and spotting all the wonderful detail not readily apparent when looking up from the stairs was a wonderful experience.
Work was also carried out by members of the Museums and Galleries team alongside specialist paint conservators Hirst Conservation to establish the original decorative scheme that surrounded the windows.
Painstaking removal of paint layers uncovered many of the original details that had been thought lost. Although we weren’t able to reinstate the paint scheme this time, we’ve been able to record the details for a future project. The decorative scheme originally included highly ornate designs – and, as we’ve come to expect from Henry Isaac Butterfield’s ‘big projects’ – a fair amount of gilding. We found indicstions of gilding on both the stonework and all the leadwork for the glass itself!
Restoring the missing glass panels posed the team with some interesting challenges. Research unearthed a number of written descriptions of the window such as that in the Bradford Weekly Telegraph for 1883:
The figures represented are all the present and past members of the Butterfield family including those related by marriage also the steward of the estate (Mr Wright). The centre figures at the base are the late Emperor of France and the Empress Eugenie whilst the Madonna and Child are figured in the crown. All the figures (except the Madonna and Child) are represented as being in Elizabethan costume which of itself gives a unique character to the window. The resemblance of each portrait is very striking.
Unfortunately despite careful searches of surviving family and business archives the team were unable to find any contemporary photographs or drawings of the original window or any fragments of the lost portraits. This has meant that we could not replicate exactly what was once there, but the aim of the restoration project was to give the same visual impact to our visitors that Henry Isaac Butterfield’s original commission did.
The decision was taken to use the one surviving panel as a starting point for the new panels’ composition. Ghostly groupings suggest the lost portraits in their elaborate medieval costumes. They also allow our visitors to perhaps consider who they would have considered important enough to them to immortalise in glass!
When commissioned, the window represented what Henry saw as the establishment of a fruitful Butterfield dynasty, paralleled with the French Imperial Family, with whom he was aquainted.
The space which originally portrayed Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie now holds an empty Napoleonic throne, representing the end of both dynasties, and providing a striking contrast to the hopeful depiction of family fruitfulness depicted above.
The conserved glass and the new panels went into the window at the end of 2018, and the scaffolding came down in January this year, revealing the window in all its glory.
The new panels are the most obvious change, but subtle things like the removal of a century of grime – and a strategic move of the support bar for the central family panel, so it goes around Mary-Louise’s head and not across her neck have made a wonderful difference too.
It’s been brilliant to see our visitors reactions to the window – we get a lot more ‘wows’ and gasps of admiration, and a real appreciation of exactly the kind of statement that Henry Isaac Butterfield was trying to make at Cliffe Castle.
Daru pulled together the project funding from a variety of funders and it would be remiss of me not to mention those funders here who helped make it possible.
The Friends of Cliffe Castle (now the Cliffe Castle Support Group, who also support work in the Park as well as museum)
The Cliffe Castle Trust
The Swire Trust
Sir Charles and Lady Nina Bracewell Smith.
The Butterfield window is a testament to the craftspeople past and present that have worked on it – and is yet another wonderful example of the skill associated with Stained Glass- complementing the 17th, 18th and 19th Stained Glass pieces we also have on display.
I will always treasure the time I spent talking to Jonathan during the project, about our stained glass – not only the Butterfield window, but the early Morris pieces from Harden Grange that are on display in the gallery at the top of the staircase.
I think it’s fair to say, that if Henry Isaac Butterfield had a ‘window to be proud of’ when Cliffe Castle first was built, so now, do we.