20 September 2019

A window that links
Lichfield Cathedral with
the Moat House, Tamworth

The Herkenrode windows in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

When I was speaking in Lichfield earlier this week [17 September 2019] about the Comberford family of Comberford Hall and the Moat House, and the Comberford family connections with Lichfield, I missed out on referring to one connection that links the Moat House in Tamworth with Lichfield Cathedral.

The Lady Chapel in the cathedral contains a wonderful collection of recently-restored 16th century Flemish glass, most of which originated in the abbey of Herkenrode before it was forcibly closed at the French Revolution. The glass was brought by Sir Brooke Boothby and installed in the cathedral in 1805, filling seven of the nine expansive windows at the east end. The other two windows are filled with restored glass from Antwerp.

The glass was taken out and sent to the Barley Studio in York for conservation over many years, and returned to the cathedral in 2015.

The Cistercian convent of Herkenrode, near Liege, was one of the largest and richest in the Low Countries. The great windows were installed between 1532 and 1539 when the abbey was perhaps at the height of its popularity and power.

The abbey was stripped of its possessions in 1793 and put up for sale in 1796. When the 16th-century windows were put up for sale, they were bought by Sir Brooke Boothby of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, who supervised their shipment to England.

Boothby had close connections with Lichfield: he was a member of the Lichfield Botanical Society and a friend of Erasmus Darwin and Anna Seward.

When Boothby’s only daughter Penelope died in 1791 and his marriage broke up, he found consolation in travel. He spent much of the rest of his life wandering Europe, and came across the Herkenrode windows in 1802. He wrote to the Dean of Lichfield, ‘I have contracted for the purchase of 17 windows of what appears to be the finest painted glass which I have almost ever seen.’

Boothby sent the windows to Rotterdam and on to Hull, from where they were sent by river to the Midlands. Some of the glass ended up in Saint Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury, but the rest arrived in Lichfield.

Lichfield Cathedral later repaid Boothby his costs. But, next to the windows of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, this is the finest Renaissance glass in an English church setting.

Sir Brooke Boothby’s memorial window in the south quire aisle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Visitors to Lichfield Cathedral often come only to see the Herkenrode windows, but often miss Boothby’s memorial window, discreetly placed in the south quire aisle.

But Boothby also had a family connection with the Moat House in Tamworth.

The Moat House was ransacked after the sieges of Lichfield and Tamworth during the Cromwellian era, from its gabled roof down to its walled garden. When the English Civil War was finally over, the Comberford family was forced to sell the house, and it was bought by Thomas Fox (1622-1666), a Roundhead captain, for £160. Over the centuries that followed, the Moat House was bought and sold several times.

Thomas Fox had married Judith Boothby in 1654 and they moved into the Moat House between 1656 and 1659. Fox was MP for Tamworth in 1659-1660, and was Town Clerk of Tamworth until 1663. In a list of Staffordshire gentry (1662-1663), he is described as a ‘violent Presbyterian, very able and dangerous, being bred to the law.’

After the Restoration, Fox was removed from office by the commissioners of corporations. In April 1663, he made over his estate, valued at £200 a year, to his brother-in-law, Sir William Boothby (ca 1638-1707), of Ashbourne Hall, Derbyshire, including the Moat House, for £1,540. Fox then moved from Tamworth and settled in London. He died in Dublin in 1666, presumably on a visit to his brother, whose grandson George Fox was returned for Hindon as a Tory in 1741.

Unlike his brother-in-law, Sir William Boothby was a royalist. He was made a baronet at the restoration, and was High Sheriff of Derbyshire (1661-1662) immediately before he bought the Moat House. His second wife, Dame Hill Boothby, was a daughter of Sir William Brooke, hence the unusual first name of Brooke Boothby.

The sale of the Moat House to Boothby included the moat with the right of fishing in it and in the River Tame, and all profits arising out of the fields and meadows in Hopwas, as well as a seat belonging to the Moat House in Saint Editha’s Church in ‘the aisle or burying place in the Chancel on the north side of the Church, adjoining the Comberford chapel.’ Later that year, William Boothby (1664-1731), son of Sir William and Dame Hill Boothby, was born in the Moat House. In the Hearth Tax Returns of 1666, the Moat House was charged for 15 hearths and was the largest house in Tamworth.

Sir William Boothby, who later succeeded his nephew as the third baronet in 1710, sold the Moat House in 1671 to Sir Edward Littleton of Pillaton Hall.

The Boothby family title was inherited in 1789 by Sir Brooke Boothby (1744-1824) as the sixth baronet. He welcomed the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Ashbourne circles in 1766, after Rousseau’s short stay in London with Hume. Ten years later, Boothby visited Rousseau in Paris in 1776, and was given the manuscript of the first part of Rousseau’s three-part autobiographic Confessions, which Boothby translated and published in Lichfield in 1780.

By then, it seems, all family connections with Tamworth were mere distant memories, but Boothby is still remembered in Lichfield Cathedral to this day.

The Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Four windows and
Kempe’s masterpiece
in Lichfield Cathedral

The window in memory of John Toke Godfrey-Faussett depicts Saint Stephen before the Council (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During my visit to Lichfield Cathedral, I went in search of some more windows by Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907), one of the great stained-glass artists of Victorian England.

A pair of windows in the south quire aisle show scenes from the Acts of the Apostles. I missed photographing Kempe’s window showing a scene in the Acts of the Apostles where Saint Peter and Saint John heal a lame man by the Beautiful Gate in the Temple (see Acts 3).

The healing theme was chosen because this window is in memory of Dr Halford Wotton Hewitt, a Lichfield medical doctor and magistrate, who died in 1891.

The window beside it is in memory of John Toke Godfrey-Faussett and depicts Saint Stephen before the Council (Acts 7: 1-53). Having addressed the Council, he looks up and declares, ‘Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God’ (Acts 7: 56).

This Biblical scene was chosen because John Toke Godfrey Faussett was a prominent lawyer in Victorian Lichfield. The inscription reads: ‘Giving thanks to God, for the loved and honoured memory of John Toke Godfrey-Faussett of The Friary, Lichfield, who entered into rest on Christmas Day, 1893, in his 59th year, his sister dedicates this window, 1895.’

John Toke Godfrey-Faussett, a son of Canon Godfrey Faussett, was educated at Charterhouse (1848-1853), and Christ Church, Oxford (BA 1857, MA 1860), and was a member of the Inner Temple. He was a magistrate in Lichfield and district registrar of the probate court in Lichfield.

The Patterson window depicts King David instructing musicians (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Patterson window on the north quire aisle was made by Kempe in 1890 in honour of the Revd William St George Patterson (1817-1890).

The text illustrated is I Chronicles 16, 4-7, in which King David instructs the musicians in the music of the sanctuary: ‘Here King David, inspired by God the Holy Ghost, instructeth the Chief Musician and the sons of Korah in the music of the sanctuary.’

The dedication reads: ‘Giving thanks to God, for the loved and honoured memory of William St George Patterson, MA, Divinity Lecturer and Sub-Chanter of this Cathedral Church from 1846 to 1890. His children surviving dedicate this window.’

The Lucock window shows Saint Peter in chains preaching (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Beside the Patterson window, a colourful, three-light window shows Saint Peter in chains preaching. This window commemorates the Very Revd Herbert Mortimer Luckock (1833-1909), who was instrumental in building All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane, Cambridge, and later was Dean of Lichfield (1892-1909).

He was educated at Marlborough College (1848-1850) and Shrewsbury School (1850-1853), and was elected to a scholarship at Jesus College, Cambridge (BA 1858, MA 1862, BD and DD 1879).

Luckock was ordained deacon in 1860 by Samuel Wilbeforce, Bishop of Oxford. For a time, he worked at Clewer with Canon Thomas Thellusson Carter (1808-1901) and with Mother Harriet Monsell (1811-1883) from Limerick, the subject of my lecture in Ardagh, Co Limerick, last week [13 September 2019].

He was elected to a fellowship at Jesus College in 1862, and was appointed to a college living as Vicar of All Saints’ Church, Cambridge, one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England.

Luckock was the first principal of Ely Theological College (1876-1887), and was appointed Dean of Lichfield in 1892. At Lichfield Cathedral, he advanced the character of the cathedral services, and promoted the restoration of the fabric, and he rebuilt Saint Chad’s Chapel at his own cost.

A plaque under this memorial window reads: ‘In grateful memory of the life and example of Herbert Mortimer Luckock, DD, Dean of Lichfield 18 December 1892 to 24 March 1909. This window was dedicated 31 May 1911, the united gift of many in honour of one to whose loving care and generosity this cathedral church bears witness.’

‘The Tree of the Church’ (1895) by Charles Kempe in the south transept (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Kempe’s other windows in Lichfield Cathedral include the Hacket window, showing Bishop Hacket’s restoration of the cathedral in the 1660s.

But perhaps his most magnificent work in the cathedral is his ‘The Tree of the Church’ (1895) in the south transept. This was the first important work of Kempe’s new draughtsman, John Lisle, and it has been described as ‘one of the finest achievements not simply of the [Kempe] Studio but of nineteenth-century stained glass as a whole.’

The central figures in the upper part of the window is Christ in Glory surrounded by four of altogether eight angels. The saints depicted in the window include Saint Chad holding a model of Lichfield Cathedral, with Saint Columba and Saint Aidan either side of him.

Below Saint Chad is Saint Augustine of Canterbury, flanked by Saint Wilfred of Worcester and Saint Hugh of Lincoln. These and the other saints all have their identifying symbols and garb, and many heraldic symbols that typify Kempe’s approach to design.

High in the tracery are Kempe’s trademark wheatsheaves and the monogram of his master glazier, Alfred Tombleson (1852-1943).