The above engraving, taken from Illustrated London News, depicts the end of the royal visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Stowe in 1845. The image illustrates the North Hall much unchanged to how it looks today. HOWEVER today we are missing the magnificent lantern that once hung proudly within the Hall. The lantern was sold during the 1848 auction to a Mr Edward Churchill….
Rumour (as well as printed word) had it that the lantern had made its way down to a hotel in Tunbridge Wells in the late 19th century however through various correspondences this rumour was quashed. Nevertheless rumours must start somewhere!
The North Hall is due for restoration next year and as such we at Stowe House are keen to track down the original lantern, if possible, and reinstate it! So with that in mind we ask you, the public, to help us find our missing lantern.
Below is the original description of the lantern from the 1848 sales catalogue:
A magnificent octangular hall lanthorn, the frame of or-molu, surmounted by a ducal coronet, and glazed with coats of arms of stained glass. […] This remarkable lanthorn was one of the principal objects on entering the mansion from the north portico. It was designed expressly for the present Duke of Buckingham, by Collins, of the Strand, by whom the brass-work and glass-painting were executed. The coats of arms, alluded to in the above description, include the armorial bearings of the various branches of the family of Buckingham, showing their regal descent. The lanthorn is in form an octagon, of which each side is divided into three compartments: the centre compartments contain the shields and supporters of the Grenville, Temple, Nugent, and Chandos families; as well as those of Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk, and King Henry VII., from who the present Duke of Buckingham & Chandos is lineally descended. The upper and lower compartments are occupied by shields of quarterings, commemorating the most important matches with the heiresses of many distinguished families, through whose alliance so large an accumulation of heraldic honours have descended to the Grenville family; and also by some of the ancient badges and devices which were at various periods adopted by the houses of Plantagenet and Tudor. The ground, or field of the paintings, is dispersed, like that of the great seal of King Henry VII., the meshes being lozenge-formed, with a fleur-de-lis on each knot, and a rose on each lozenge; the latter being a device of the House of Lancaster; and the former to show his descent from the royal blood of France, through his grandmother, Queen Katherine of Valois, the widow of King Henry V. The arrangement of this extraordinary heraldic display was made by William James Smith, Esq., a gentleman, who for many years past has filled the important office of librarian at Stowe. When the lot was put up, a general impression prevailed that it would be bought for the family, the illustrated heraldic history, though of great value to them, possessing little interest for others. This supposition was strengthened when Mr. Richards, a gentleman, who resides in one of the Boycot Pavilions, within the Stowe Park (and is therefore a tenant of the family), was observed to be the principal bidder. After exciting a very languid competition, the lot was knocked down to this gentleman for thirty-two guineas, its original cost to the Duke of Buckingham having been £400. Subsequently to the sale, the lanthorn proved to have been purchased for Mr. Edward Churchill, of the Calverley Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, the entrance-hall of which magnificent establishment it now decorates. Mr. Richards and Mr. Churchill are on terms of close friendship; and while the mansion was on view, the latter jocularly remarked – pointing to the lanthorn – “if that goes for £20 or £30, you may buy it for me.” Hence its purchase as described.”