Staircase Hall - Burton Constable Hall

In the Elizabethan house, there was first a modest staircase leading from the Great Hall to the Great Chamber above the present Dining Room. Following completion of the Long Gallery, a more elaborate staircase was required to provide access to various areas of the upper floor. The present cantilevered staircase was designed by Timothy Lightoler in the 1760s. The candle fittings on the handrail are a rare survival from this period, although the engraved glass candle-shades were fitted in 1838.

The present bright-yellow colour scheme, which was chosen by the late Gay Chichester Constable, dates from 1972. Lightoler’s original scheme was for ‘drab’ (stone-coloured) painted walls. In 1797 the walls were repainted in French-grey by William Kipling at a cost of £6.15.8. This blue-grey colour would have provided an ideal background for the numerous gilt-framed paintings that hung in the room. The life-size plaster figures of Flora and Livia Augusta are by the sculptor John Cheere and were supplied in 1765 at 10 guineas apiece.

The candle fittings on the handrail are a rare survival from this period, although the engraved glass candle-shades were fitted in 1838. The present bright-yellow colour scheme, which was chosen by the late Gay Chichester-Constable, dates from 1972. Lightoler’s original scheme was for ‘drab’ (stone-coloured) painted walls. In 1797 the walls were repainted in French-grey at a cost of £6.15.8 by a William Kipling. This blue-grey colour would have provided an ideal background for the numerous gilt-framed paintings which hung in this room.

The life-size plaster figures of Flora and Livia Augusta are by the sculptor John Cheere and were supplied in 1765 at 10 guineas apiece. John Cheere first worked in partnership with his brother Sir Henry, later taking over John Nost’s sculpture workshop in 1739 - acquiring Nost’s moulds and models into the bargain. John Cheere was renowned for his mass-produced plaster figures and also for his small-scale ‘bronzed’ plasters, so well exemplified by the statuettes of Hercules, Demosthenes and Flora in the Staircase Hall.

In 1840 Thomas Ward (1782-1850) of Hull was paid £40.0.0 for ‘Gilding Banisters for great Stair case’ and a further £8.0.0 for ‘Gilding mouldings for Skirting boards’. This was undoubtedly part of the refurbishment undertaken to create a luxurious family sitting room. It was at this time that the two history paintings by Andrea Casali (c.1700-84) that hang to either side of the fireplace were brought to Burton Constable from the Clifford’s home at Tixall in Staffordshire. Exhibited by Casali in the 1760s at the Royal Society of Arts where they won prizes, the paintings were subsequently purchased at the artist’s sale in 1766 by Alderman Beckford for Fonthill House in Wiltshire, where they were given their rococo papier-mâché frames. They were bought for Tixall when Beckford’s son, William, demolished the old house and embarked on building Fonthill Abbey.

The colossal picture, Corialanus, which hangs above the staircase on the opposite wall is one of six large history paintings commissioned from Casali in 1743 by Sir Robert Childe for Wanstead House in Essex. When Wanstead was demolished in 1822, several of the pictures were transferred to Leeds Castle in Kent. This painting was sold again in 1830 and had arrived at Burton Constable by 1840 - presumably by way of Tixall.

Directly below the Casali hangs Louis XVIII Landing at Calais, painted by Edward Bird (1772-1819) - complete with a key to the identity of the various characters. This painting formerly belonged to the Prince Regent and hung at Carlton House in London - a gift from the Prince to Thomas Hugh Clifford for kindness shown to French Royalty whilst in exile. Until the 1950s Caravaggio’s St. John the Baptist occupied this spot. One of Caravaggio’s most celebrated works, it now takes pride of place in the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas, U.S.A.

On the upper landing of the Staircase Hall hangs the huge group portrait of Lord Aston and his family painted in c.1725 by Richard van Bleeck (c.1670-c.1733) for Standon Lordship in Hertfordshire. The portrait was later moved to Tixall and brought to Burton Constable along with other paintings in c.1840.

The pair of gilt-wood side tables with marble tops were designed by Timothy Lightoler and carved by Joseph Foster (fl.1767-85) in 1774 for 24 shillings each. The remaining furniture in the room dates from the nineteenth century, including the occasional chair with painted green-velvet covering and matching footstools by Miles & Edwards of London. Of the five Louis XVI-style oval-backed side chairs, four are by Richardsons of Hull, with their design based on the fifth chair of the suite which was actually purchased in Paris. The ebonised Grand Piano with music cabinet and stool are all by Erard of Paris and London.

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Did you know?
Afternoon tea was created by the Duchess of Bedford in the late 18th century. She invited friends to join her for an afternoon meal of small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, sweets and, of course, tea. The practice was so popular that it was quickly adopted by other social hostesses 
Over 80 different species of birds have been spotted at Burton Constable, from the smallest British bird, the Goldcrest, to large birds of prey such as Buzzards and Barn Owls

The Burton Constable Whale is featured in Herman Melville's famous novel Moby Dick. 

Today the Burton Constable Whale is nicknamed 'Constable Moby'

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