Jonathan Cooke ACR trained at the York Glaziers Trust and has been a freelance conservator and glass painter since 1987, during which time he has had the privilege of working on glass of all dates and the challenge of replicating damaged painted surfaces, sometimes on a large scale, including for all major 19th-century English workshops,. He has given classes in glass painting throughout the UK, as well as in Norway and the USA. His manual on glass painting Time and Temperature (Swansea, 2013), is a practical guide to a variety of techniques; a distillation of his working knowledge and experience, observation and study.
Grand Designs: Cliffe Castle’s staircase window
1*Jonathan Cooke, 2Ruth Cooke and 3Daru Rooke
1,2Jonathan and Ruth Cooke Ltd
3 Bradford Museums and Galleries
During the 1870s and 80s Cliffe Castle in Keighley, West Yorkshire, underwent a major transformation under the ownership of Henry Isaac Butterfield. who spent a decade extending and elaborating Cliffe Hall, his family home, finally renaming it Cliffe Castle to match its new grandeur.
The centrepiece of his medieval- inspired entrance hall was the Grand Staircase, embellished with an elaborate balustrade and marble columns, backed by a vast stained glass window filling the whole height of the building, manufactured by the Leeds firm of Powell Brothers, one of their earliest secular commissions.
As originally designed the window was a complex combination of ornate canopy work and portraiture. At the centre of the window is a family group showing Henry Isaac Butterfield, his deceased wife Mary Roosevelt and his son Frederick Louis in Elizabethan costume which matched the Tudor inspired Castle. Behind them is a fruiting tree suggesting the developing Butterfield family dynasty.
Above them is a stained glass interpretation of Raphael’s Madonna and Child which represents Mary Butterfield’s Catholic faith; panels of armorial glass show her descent from the Earls of County Mayo.
In the remaining panels were once portraits of Henry Isaacs’s family and of the French Imperial family with whom he was familiar. Correspondence in the archive confirms that Powell’s were sent family photographs to ensure good likenesses. The walls and mullions were painted and gilded, as were the lead matrices of the panels forming the window. At night, the ensemble must have been as spectacular in reflected as in transmitted light during the day.
Unfortunately the coming years were not kind to the window or to Henry Isaac’s family. His nephew Freddie was killed in a train accident in America, his niece Jennie died in childbirth and the Prince Imperial, son of Napoleon III, died fighting in the Zulu wars of assegai wounds. Soon the window must have appeared more as a memorial to the departed than the celebration of a dynasty in the making.
These thoughts may have influenced Sir Frederick Butterfield, Henry Isaac’s son and heir, whose will stated that the painted pictorial glass throughout the building should be destroyed at the time of his death. Although the upper panels and borders of the window were retained nine of the ten portrait panels were smashed and replaced by clear glass following his death in 1943.
In the later 20th century the staircase block was opened up to the elements as part of the rebuilding to create a museum for Keighley. The window tracery began to suffer serious erosion and water ingress. Wrought iron pins used to fix masonry joints began to distort and twist the structure. The areas of blank glass damaged the balance of the window and spoiled the setting of the remaining painted work. Both visually and structurally the window was compromised.
In 2015 the Museums and Galleries team began working with The Friends of Cliffe Castle to develop a funding project to conserve the window. Working with groups including the Friends of Bradford Galleries and Museums and the Swire Trust funding was secured for its conservation. Work is currently ongoing: working with the client in a unique project to unveil an unusual ··renewed”” window that does justice to the original designer and the family who commissioned it.