Included amongst the artefacts brought to Highcliffe by Lord Stuart de Rothesay was a magnificent collection of stained glass. Ranging from the 12th to 19th centuries in date, it is mainly French but with outstanding examples from Germany and Switzerland. A complete 16th century window, known as the "Jesse Window", is the jewel in the Castles crown.
The Jesse Window became the large north window of the Castle's Great Hall. From the church of St Vigour, Rouen, the window depicts the tree of Jesse and dates from 1547. Further French glass was added to complete the window by Christchurch glazier, Charles Holloway in 1838 who has worked with Louisa Stuart who had created new designs to complete the window. Two disastrous fires in 1967 and 1968 caused some fire crazing, but more seriously, the Castle was empty and open to theft and vandalism. It was decided that the glass should be removed for safekeeping and much of it remains in storage. In 1997 an appeal was launched by the Highcliffe Castle Charitable Trust to raise funds to reinstate the Jesse Window and, happily, in 1998 the window was put back in place.
Examples of German, Swiss and Flemish glass are amongst the fine collection. Subjects depicted range from religious and heraldic to domestic. Added to this the glass sizes range from 1.3m by 63cm panels to 22cm diameter roundels. The magnificence of the glass would merit an exhibition of its own.
The examples here show little text is required to describe the glass: its beauty speaks for itself.
Vidimus is an on-line magazine devoted to Medieval Stained Glass and includes news and features from around Great Britain.