05 May 2024

An evening of celebrations
at Lamport Hall marks
450 years of family history
with a new exhibition

Lamport Hall is celebrating 50 years of the Lamport Hall Preservation Trust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Charlotte and I were in Lamport Hall last week to mark the opening of celebrations to mark 50 years of the Lamport Hall Preservation Trust, including a new exhibition and special events.

We were there because I had been invited to contribute to the new exhibition catalogue, with a short paper on the Lamport Crucifix, which is on loan to Lamport Hall from Peterborough Cathedral as one of the central exhibits.

We caught the train from Wolverton to Northampton, and then had to take a taxi to Lamport, which is midway between Northampton and Market Harborough. Lamport Hall is a hidden gem nestled in the Northamptonshire countryside, yet only a short drive from the motorway network.

Lamport Hall is Grade I listed building of architectural significance, with an impressive collection of art and furniture, wonderful gardens, and a year-round calendar of events.

Lamport Hall is nestled in the Northamptonshire countryside (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Sir Richard Leonard Vere Isham, who spoke at the opening of the exhibition last weekend, succeeded as the 15th baronet in 2021 and represents a long line of Isham baronets whose family have been part of Lamport Halll since the mid-16th century.

For over 400 years, from 1560 to 1976, Lamport Hall was home to the Isham family, one of the oldest families in Northamptonshire. The family surname is pronounced ‘Eye-shum’, and derives from the village of Isham, Northamptonshire.

The fortunes and the trials of each generation of the Isham family have left their mark on the house. As a result, the collections have remained virtually untouched throughout the centuries, providing a snapshot of life in a country house.

Lamport Hall was developed from a Tudor manor house, and the house was architecturally worked on by John Webb, Smith of Warwick and William Burn. It is now notable for its classical frontage, and architecture alterations were made in the 19th century by women who have been called ‘two feisty wives’.

Lamport Hall was home to the Isham family for over 400 years, from 1560 to 1976 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

John Isham, a wealthy wool merchant, built a manor house on the Lamport Estate in 1568. His grandson, Sir John Isham (1582-1651), High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, became the first baronet in 1627 during the reign of Charles I. He extended the house considerably, although all that remains of his building is a section of the present stable wing.

His only son, the second baronet Sir Justinian Isham (1610-1675), fought as a Royalist in the Civil War and sat as MP for Northamptonshire after the Restoration of Charles II. He built the main existing house in 1655, when he commissioned John Webb, a pupil of Inigo Jones, to design a large two-storey home.

Sir Thomas Isham (1657-1681) was 19 when he succeeded to the family title as the third baronet and to Lamport Hall. Immediately he set off on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe with his cousin and tutor, the Revd Zacchaeus Isham. They stayed on the Continent for 2½, spending a large part of their time spent in Italy collecting art works. The treasures he collected on his Grand Tour as a teenage baronet are part of the collections at Lamport Hall.

On his return to England and to Lamport Hall, Sir Thomas became engaged to Mary van de Bempde, daughter of a Dutch merchant. But he died of smallpox on 26 July 1681 before the marriage could take place. He was buried several days later on 9 August in Lamport, and was succeeded by his younger brother Sir Justinian Isham II (1658-1730), the fourth baronet, who was an MP for Northampton and for Northamptonshire.

Sir Charles Vere Isham had a particular interest in gardening at Lamport Hall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Sir Justinian Isham III (1687-1737) and Sir Edmund Isham (1690-1772), the fifth and sixth baronets, were brothers and both sat as MPs for Northamptonshire. This Sir Edmund Isham made the next major additions, when the south-west front and the north were completed in 1741.

The main gates date were designed in 1824 by Henry Hakewill for Sir Justinian Isham, the eighth baronet (1773-1845). During his time, the south-east front was rebuilt was completed in 1842.

His son, Sir Charles Vere Isham (1819-1903), the tenth baronet, inherited Lamport Hall at the age of 26 in 1846 when his elder brother Justinian died. He had a particular interest in gardening and his garden featured in many of the journals of the day. Of particular interest at the time was the rockery he created. He is also credited with beginning the tradition of garden gnomes in England when he introduced a number of terracotta figures from Germany in the 1840s.

Later, Sir Charles commissioned a new fa├žade for Lamport Hall, with a porch to the north-west front that is now the distinctive main entrance. This was completed in 1862, and the tower was built about the same time.

A number of rare volumes of Elizabethan prose and poetry were found in an attic in 1887, including first editions bound in sheepskin of John Milton ‘s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

Sir Gyles Isham (1903-1976), the twelfth baronet, was a Shakespearian and Hollywood actor. He was an officer in Libya during World War II when he succeeded to Lamport Hall and the family title in 1941. When he returned to Lamport Hall in 1950, the house had considerably deteriorated and he began major renovation works. He was also High Sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1958.

The exhibition catalogue recalls how he opened the ground floor to the public 50 year ago in 1974, and was instrumental in setting up the Lamport Hall Preservation Trust. Following a long period of neglect and misfortune, an impressive restoration project was undertaken, returning Lamport Hall to its former glory.

When Sir Gyles died in 1976, he left Lamport Hall and its contents and collections to the Lamport Hall Preservation Trust, which continues to care for the hall and gardens today.

The stables at Lamport Hall featured in ‘The Crown’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Lamport Hall today includes fine rooms, a wealth of outstanding furniture, books, china, paintings and family portraits.

The High Room with a magnificent ceiling by William Smith. The library includes 16th-century volumes. The Lamport Cross, which is on loan from Peterborough Cathedral, is on display and the early 19th century cabinet room, which takes its name from Neapolitan cabinets that depict mythological paintings on glass. Sir Gyles turned the cabinet room into his private chapel when he became a Roman Catholic.

Lamport Hall also offers a setting for weddings and corporate events. The events throughout the year include antiques fairs, the Festival of Country Life, study days, and a gardening academy. The hall is also home to Lampy, England’s first and only surviving garden gnome imported from Germany in the 19th century.

Lamport Hall was the setting to depict Clarence House in the Netflix series The Crown, and the stables doubled for the stables at Windsor Castle.

Lamport Hall is open to the public and has a full year-round programme (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Easter 2024:
36, 5 May 2024

The Resurrection depicted in a fresco in Analipsi Church in Georgioupoli, Crete … the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Easter today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Easter is a 50-day season that continues until the Day of Pentecost (19 May 2024), and today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Easter VI). Easter has been later in the Greek Orthodox Church this year, and Easter is celebrated in the Orthodox Church today.

Throughout this Season of Easter, my morning reflections each day include the daily Gospel reading, the prayer in the USPG prayer diary, and the prayers in the Collects and Post-Communion Prayer of the day.

I atteneded the Easter celebrations in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford late last night and early this morning. Later this morning, I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford. But, before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

Peacocks, symbols of the Resurrection, at the former studio of Alexandra Kaouki in Rethymnon … the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Easter today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

John 15: 9-17 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’

‘You have delivered us from the power of darkness’ (Post-Communion Prayer) … an icon of the Harrowing of Hell and the Resurrection in Saint Andrew Holborn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayers (Sunday 5 May 2024, Easter VI):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Thy Kingdom Come.’ This theme is introduced today with these ‘Reflections’:

‘In praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, we all commit to playing our part in the renewal of the nations and the transformation of communities.’ – The Most Revd Justin Welby

Ascension Day marks the first day of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ – an annual invitation to prayer called by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Since it began in May 2016, God has grown TKC from a dream of possibility into a movement which unites more than a million Christians in prayer in nearly 90% of countries worldwide, across 85 different denominations and traditions – so that friends and family, neighbours and colleagues might come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Running until Pentecost, every person, household and church is encouraged to pray during the 11 days in their own way. It is the hope and prayer that those who have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and His love for the world will hear it for themselves and respond and follow Him. For those who know God already, it is an opportunity for us to explore our calling into a deep relationship with our Father in heaven. We are called into a meaningful community, a universal fellowship.

This week is Ascension Day, reminding us of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Having completed His Father’s mission on earth, Jesus was taken up to be reunited with His Father, to sit at His Father’s right hand, far above all earthly rule and authority. Today, like the disciples in the Acts 1, we can wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us to be Jesus’ witnesses to our family, our friends and in our church community. May each of us be willing to ask God how we can share the love of our Father in Heaven with the people we know.

Find out more www.thykingdomcome.global

The USPG Prayer Diary today (5 May 2024, Easter VI) invites us to pray:

Almighty God,
your ascended Son has sent us into the world
to preach the good news of your Kingdom:
inspire us with your Spirit
and fill our hearts with the fire of your love,
that all who hear your word may be drawn to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect:

God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us
to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Additional Collect:

Risen Christ,
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Thy Kingdom Come Through The Years

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org