Notes from the Library (No.7, July 2015)
The Osmondthorpe Hall Painted Glass Panel
Osmondthorpe Hall Painted Glass Panel (19¼ x 9¼ ins)
Since at least 1907 the Thoresby Society has owned a number of small pieces of painted glass, though as they have been stored in the Archives few members will have seen them. Three of these have been set in a composite panel; two of them are late medieval, and a third is sixteenth century, and all three are said to have come from the demolished Osmondthorpe Hall in east Leeds. They were presented to the Society by Mr Stenson Webb, an auctioneer and valuer living in Hollin Lane, Far Headingley, but there is no information about how they came into his hands. In May 1907 these three pieces were put into a frame by Mr William Pape, ‘Glass Stainer’, with premises in Aire Street, Leeds. Within the frame, Pape provided the following description of the glass (italic and underlining to be ignored for the moment):
After enumerating a many things Thorsby says there was here also the remains of certain old Works which the late Alderman Skelton levell’d, filling up several trenches &c which had continued to the Times of King Charles I, when the present Fabric was Built. In one of the Windows is a piece of Painted Glass, that was preserved when the Old Hall was demolished. It represents a King with a very Antique Crown and Sword, with an Escochean of three Crowns the Arms of the Kingdom of the East Angles, where Edwyn was relieved in his Exile, and by the help of whose King Redwald, he was at length restored to this his Ancient Kingdom of Northumberland. Here have been also Pavements and Causeways found under ground in plowing. On the 6th of Sept 1739 I went to Ossinthorp and saw there the Painted Glass as mentioned. Upon another Pane drawn with a Diamond a Coat of Arms 3 Bugle Horns, Crest, an Holly leaf, Motto, Facile quæritur amor. Above is writ William Wyreley 1598 which plainly shows that Mr Wyreley, the Herald, as I take it, saw it.
The above is from a M∙S note in a copy of Thoresby.
THESE RELICS WERE PRESENTED BY MR STENSON WEBB TO THE THORESBY SOCIETY, AND PUT INTO THEIR PRESENT FORM BY MR WILLIAM PAPE ONE OF THE GRATEFUL MEMBERS MAY 1907
This description of the glass needs some disentangling. It begins with a few of Pape’s own words, then continues with a quotation from Ralph Thoresby’s Ducatus Leodiensis (in italic in the transcription above), and finally makes use of additional material (underlined above) which Pape says was taken from an annotation (‘a M∙S note’) in a copy of the Ducatus. The Leeds Library possesses an annotated Ducatus, once owned by Thomas Wilson. He was the schoolmaster at Leeds in the early eighteenth century, and bought the remaining contents of Thoresby’s museum. This Ducatus is annotated by him and John Lucas, and the third part of Pape’s description is close to but not identical with an annotation in this copy. Another annotated copy of the Ducatus is in the Leeds Local Studies and Family History Library. This annotation is somewhat rougher, but is also by Thomas Wilson (and others), and it is one of the annotations in this copy that provided Pape with the other part of his text for the glass panel. The writer of the annotation (fairly certainly Wilson) visited Osmondthorpe himself and thus was able to add his own observations to Thoresby’s description.
Later the Thoresby Society asked one of the foremost historic glass scholars of the time, N.H.J. Westlake, to comment on the glass, and it is his comments which are added at the foot of the framed display:
THIS GLASS MENTIONED BY THORESBY, DUCATUS LEODIENSIS, MDCCXV, p.109, FIGURED BY WHITAKER, LOIDIS AND ELMETE, MDCCCXVI, 134/5, CONSISTS OF TWO PORTIONS OF DIFFERENT DATES:
(1) THE FLEUR DE LYS “or” IN POT METAL IS FROM THE BORDER OF A 14TH CENTURY WINDOW AND IS SIMILAR TO WORK IN YORK MINSTER.
(2) THE CROWNED FIGURE (circa 1430-60) IS AN ANGEL, PERHAPS A “DOMINATION” FROM SOME WINDOW IN WHICH THE NINE CHOIRS ARE REPRESENTED, IN STYLE SIMILAR TO YORK GLASS.
(3) THE THIRD PIECE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN A WINDOW PANE SCRATCHED BY A DIAMOND RING.
NOTES BY N.H.J.WESTLAKE.
As Westlake says, the central figure of the glass (figure 1) had been reproduced by T.D. Whitaker in his Loidis and Elmete (figure 2), and it is clear that this is the same glass as that in the Society’s possession, though there are some differences. There appear to have been some losses since Whitaker’s time: the hand of the figure and the hilt of the sword, as well as the feathers at the end of the figure’s left wing, are now missing. Besides these losses, the engraver has misunderstood the edge of the crown next to the shield on the figure’s breastplate, and, most oddly, there is a lead join where now there is the top of the shield and no lead; though nearby and in the same line, the glass is cracked across. Unfortunately Whitaker does not say where he saw the glass or whose possession it was in when he had it copied. Wilson’s comments, quoted by Pape, show that in 1739 two of the pieces of glass were together and still at Osmondthorpe, presumably still in a window. As to the identification of the figure, there is no doubt that it is an angel, as Westlake says, though why it is carrying a shield with the three crowns, the arms of St Edmund of East Anglia (but also with other associations), is not obvious. It would help if we knew where the glass came from. It is possible that it was made for the medieval hall of the Skeltons at Osmondthorpe, but equally possible that it came from a church in the vicinity. It may well be part of a series, the nine orders of angels, for example, as Westlake suggests. The nine orders were a medieval extrapolation from various references to ‘angels’ in the Bible. Amongst the orders were some that were often represented in armour (Dominations, Powers, for example), but the figure could equally well be one of the many individual angels that appear in the upper lights of medieval windows.
The incised glass (Figure 3) seems to have been more complete when it was transcribed earlier by Wilson, since the surname of the signatory as ‘Wyreley’ is clearly identified, where now there is only ‘Wy’ . There was a William Wyr(e)ley who was a herald, and his dates, 1563-1618, would fit that of the inscription on the glass, 1598. The coat of arms, three bugles, could be a Wyr(e)ley one (the coat usually has a chevron between the bugles). Moreover, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for William Wyrley records that ‘About 1599 he went to Scotland to the court of King James’. It is tempting to suggest that in 1598 he visited Osmondthorpe Hall on his way north. The Latin motto reads ‘facile quærentibus Amor’ (not ‘quæreribus’, as Wilson, or ‘quæritur’ as Pape) and possibly means something like: ‘Love [comes] easily to those seeking [it]’; but its significance here is not obvious. It does not appear to be a Wyr(e)ley family motto, nor does the holly leaf (if it is holly) appear to be a crest of that family. The message could be a compliment to the host; that is, affection is readily given to the guest; but riddling love messages were also a commonplace feature of inscriptions on glass at the time. The pane is typically thin Elizabethan window glass (less than 2mm), and marks on it show that it was originally a diamond-shaped pane.
By a curious chance, in one of the Society’s Ralph Thoresby manuscripts there is a rough sketch of a figure in armour with a sword, above the inscription: ‘in the window at Ossinthorp’ (Figure 4). Though in a general way the podgy, cartoon-like character looks most unlike the slim, boyish figure in the glass, in detail there are so many similarities that it must be a sketch of our piece of glass that Thoresby made on one of his visits to Osmondthorpe Hall. Even though Thoresby has apparently misunderstood a number of features (the feathers, the elbow protection (‘couter’), for example), and omitted others (the shield, the left wing), nevertheless the crown with pointed helmet, the position of the hand holding the sword, the three crowns on the breastplate, the crenellated belt, even the misplaced ‘couter’, all fit the figure in the glass. It is obviously not a very accurate representation of the glass image but as a reminder of what Thoresby had seen it would be enough for the description in the Ducatus. Besides, we have no idea of the difficulties under which he was working. Was the glass accessible, or was it high up in the window? Was it in a brightly lit position or in a dark corner?
Osmondthorpe Hall seems to be a bit of a mystery. In the Ducatus, Thoresby wrote: ‘There was here also the Remains of certain old Works, which the late Alderman Skelton levell’d, filling up several Trenches &c., which had continued to the Times of King Charles I’. If by ‘old Works’ he means an
earlier building, perhaps with other buildings attached, then presumably that is what he later refers to as the ‘old Hall’, the medieval hall of the Skeltons. But ‘old Works’ could simply refer to earthworks, the ‘Trenches’ which Alderman Skelton filled up. What was left of Osmondthorpe Old Hall, a seventeenth-century building, was demolished in the 1930s. Osmondthorpe Hall, across the road from the Old Hall, was built in the first half of the eighteenth century and burnt down in the 1920s.
It is an extraordinary and exciting chance that we have Thoresby’s description of some glass he saw in the late seventeenth century in a now demolished house, and also (remarkably) a sketch he made of it at the time. We also have Thomas Wilson’s description (with additions) written a few years later, Whitaker’s lithographer’s engraving of the glass done at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and (most remarkably) the glass itself. Thanks to Michelle Jordan (Leeds Stained Glass Studio, and a member of the Thoresby Society), the glass has now been cleaned and re-set. It will be going with us to the Leeds Library and will there be available for interested members to see.
© Peter Meredith and the Thoresby Society