Friday, August 14, 2009

The Constable Family of Everingham and the Catholic Chapel of Ss. Mary and Everilda

I have often had an interest in the English recusant families, and recently I came across, quite by accident, the Constable family of Everingham who were one of the families that remained Catholic after the English reformation.

The University of Hull in Britain, who keep archives related to the family, note that the Constables became one of the leading landowning families of Yorkshire in the 16th century but that their family wealth was compromised in the mid 17th century due to the recusancy fines they were subject to. The family had further struggles during the English civil war, as the family were Royalists and so their estates were sequestered. However, through another Catholic family the Constables were related to by marriage, the Sherburne family, they managed to come through these various trials.

Interesting as this is in its own right, what initially and particularly caught my attention was a drawing of the Italianate chapel the family had constructed in the 1830's shortly following the Catholic Emancipation Act, on their estate in Everingham, which appeared in Peter F. Anson's Churches: Their Plan and Furnishing. This chapel was built by William Constable Maxwell (1804-1876) beside Everingham Hall (see above). Accordingly, I determined to source out some photographs of estate chapel to share with our readership.

The High Altar

The chapel also has a splendid organ and apparently a strong musical tradition associated with it:
[William Constable] Maxwell used his connections to assemble formidable musical resources for the occasion [of the consecration of the chapel]. The choir was drawn from York Minster, the local Catholic chapel in York and members of the city's Choral Society. They were thus able to sing all seven penitential psalms and the Litany of the Saints during the consecration ceremony. During Mass the following day they sang Haydn's Mass No. 1, Hummel's motet Alma Virgo and C. H . Graun's Te Deum. The priest, Maxwell's chaplain the Rev. Matthew Newsham, intoned the rest of the Mass using Gregorian chant. After Vespers that afternoon an 'Halleluiah to the Father', taken from Beethoven's Mount of Olives oratorio, was performed...

From the beginning music played an important part in the chapel. There still survives a large organ, containing two manuals and a pedal board, built by Charles Allen in 1837. (Source)

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