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Baker University Collection




Original document


The Secret Life of a Jacobean Drawing Room     

Place name:

Michaelchurch Escley, Golden Valley




This document was produced and published by the Faculty and Management of Baker University , Baldwin City , Kansas , USA as part of an exhibition in the Spencer Wing of the University, which incorporates the Urishay Room. It is transcribed below and is reproduced as a Guest Contribution with their kind permission. It forms part of a collection of documents and photographs relating to the drawing room from Urishay Castle which was sold as architectural salvage c,1913.

Ewyas Lacy Study Group


The Secret Life of a Jacobean Drawing Room

September 2012 through July 2013

Quayle Bible Collection Exhibit: Baker University Baldwin City , KS      

This year’s exhibit, The Secret Life of a Jacobean Drawing Room, explores the 17th century world of the Welsh Marches. Visitors are invited into the drawing room of the Urishay Manor (or Castle, as it is often called) to appreciate the woodwork and stained glass and to absorb its atmosphere. The manor was built by Thomas Delahay toward the end of the 17th century on the site of an 11th century family castle near Peterchurch in Herefordshire.  

Books on display include 17th century Bibles, sermons, and prayer books and allow visitors to delve into the religious, social and cultural life of the period.  

English Civil Wars  

Although the English Civil Wars lasted only from 1642 to 1651, the conflict over religious and governmental issues consumed the country for most of the century.  

When the Church of England broke with Rome in 1534, a number of Catholics stayed in England ; they did not go to France or another Catholic country where they could worship as they pleased. Conversely, other people felt that the English reforms did not go far enough. Under the Acts of Uniformity of 1559 and 1662, citizens were required to participate in (or conform to) the established church. Anyone who refused to do so was called a nonconformist.  

In the middle of the 17th century this conflict was played out on the battlefield between the Puritans and Charles I, who favored an absolute monarchy and was sympathetic to Catholicism. After defeating the King in 1649, the Puritan commander Oliver Cromwell led the country for the better part of a decade marked by harsh, military government.  

After the death of Cromwell and the resignation of his son, Richard, the monarchy was restored. Charles II returned from France and he and his brother, James II, ruled for 28 uneasy years. James’ Catholicism was a serious problem for many in his kingdom since he also served as the head of the English Church . Against the wishes of Parliament he included Catholics in his government and at court.  The last straw was when his son was baptized a Catholic, creating a Catholic dynasty.  

Prominent government leaders invited William of Orange and his wife, Mary, James’ protestant daughter, to assume the throne. This coup was called the “Glorious Revolution” or sometimes the “Bloodless Revolution.”  

Literacy, Reading and Book Ownership  

Literacy in the English countryside probably hovered around 30% toward the end of the 17th century. Many literate persons knew just enough reading and writing to keep accounts and sign their names.  Books were owned and read by a much smaller percentage of the population – clergy, gentlemen, professionals, businessmen.  

Lady Anne Clifford was probably not too atypical a gentlewoman. In her diary of 1618 we see a young mother who attended plays and masques at court, played cards (and lost), visited family and friends and who read and was read to. She mentioned carrying her Bible or prayer book as she walked in the garden. That year she read or listened to an unnamed book by Chaucer, Spenser’s epic poem The  Faerie Queene, Essays by Montaigne, a history of the Netherlands,  and religious works like Thomas Sorocold’s collection of prayers  called Supplication of the Saints and a “book of preparation for the  sacrament” which she read on Good Friday.  

Booksellers’ records and auction catalogs provide some insight on the book business. Libraries of “deceased gentlemen” were sold by booksellers at auction in London , at locations like “the Sign of the Black Swan, over against the South Door of St Paul’s Church (amongst the Woolen-drapers).” But they were occasionally held at county fairs, too. The catalog for the St. Edmondsbury Fair described  both books and additional items to interest the ladies – A Catalogue  of Choice Books – viz., in Divinity, History, Voyages, Travels, Romances,  Plays, together with Artificiall Rarities – viz., Roses etc., extremely  natural, all sorts of Perfumes for Rooms brought out of Italy; Hungary  Waters, Chocolata, Best Spanish Snush, Essences and all sorts of Powder  for the Hair in greater and lesser quantities, will be sold by Auction  (or who bids most) for the diversion of the Gentlemen and Ladies at  St. Edmond’s-Bury Fair on Monday, the 23rd of September, 1689.   

Theological scholars and clergy were by far the largest group of book owners represented in the records, followed by lawyers, physicians and gentlemen. Books in their libraries tended toward the  theological – Bibles, Psalters, prayer books, and sermon collections ~  followed by history, especially genealogy and the history of the  Kings of England; accounts of travel & voyages; a bit of poetry and  other literature including books of “drollery and jest.” Interestingly enough, John Eliot’s translation of the Bible into the Algonquin language and Izaak Walton’s The compleat angler, the contemplative man’s recreation, made multiple appearances in these catalogues.    

The History of Private Libraries  

Before the 17th century a library in a private residence would have been unusual. A landed gentleman would have a private room, a “closet,” accessed through his chamber. A country house was a very busy place ~ it was the center of an agricultural community and business, bustling with the activity of servants, guests, and tenants in addition to being a family home. So it was to his closet that the gentleman retired to pray and read and from that room he ran the affairs of his estate and stored his valuable possessions. And, if his wife had a closet, as she well might have, it was her own private space.  

As interest in book collecting grew and collectors spent their leisure time studying theology or history or participating in the excitement of scientific experimentation, the collections outgrew the closets.  New rooms called “cabinets” were built, often adjoining the chambers of both a man and his wife, and provided a space where the family could gather and enjoy their possessions. The bookplate of E. Crawshaw shows the interior of such a room furnished with books, a microscope, globe, hourglass and model ship.  

From this cabinet the library developed. It was a public rather than a private room and was used to display treasures and entertain guests informally.     

The Book Arts  

Books were bought either bound or unbound. The buyer of an unbound volume took his book to a binder. Samuel Pepys had all of his books bound alike. Other collectors had their coats of arms, initials, or motifs that were personally meaningful tooled into the leather. Handsome leathers and dyes, metal clasps and bosses, and gold leaf were all used to decorate the outsides of their books.  

Inside, marbled papers made a colorful second impression. Marbled, or agate papers were introduced to Europe from Turkey and Persia in the 16th century and into England in the mid 17th century. A wide variety of designs could be made by dropping paint onto water thickened with seaweed and drawing a comb or a straw through it.  The paper was carefully laid on top of the paint to transfer the design. 

In the 17th century books were illustrated with woodcuts, engravings and etchings, usually using a black ink. If color was required, it was painted over the printed image.   Music printing was still developing at this time. Music could be printed by printing the lines and making the notes by hand or by using movable type (this could only be used to show the melody line – chords were too complex) or, later, the whole piece could be engraved and printed from plates. 

The Urishay Manor & Drawing Room  

Urishay Manor stood above Peterchurch in Herefordshire in the west of England . The original structure was an 11th century Norman castle, one of many that guarded the border between England and Wales . To the west, in Wales , are the Black Mountains and to the east, the Golden Valley , through which flows the River Dore. It is a scenic agricultural area dotted with apple and pear orchards. Frank Kilvert, vicar of nearby Bredwardine in the 19th century described the view in his diary:  

At  ten  o’clock  I  started  in  an  April  shower  to  walk  to  Peterchurch.  I  went  through  Moccas  Park  and  up  a  deep  wild  picturesque  lane  beyond  the  Bredwardine  Lodge.  The  noble  spire  of  the  fine  Norman  Church  rises  grandly  in  the  midst  of  the  valley,  the  white  houses  of  the  village  are  gathered  round  it  and  hard  by  are  one  or  two  poplars  rising  with  golden  green  spires  against  the  blue  sides  of  the  distant  hills.   

The manor was three storeys high with an entrance hall on the ground floor which probably also housed the kitchen, larder and other work areas. The drawing room, where the family and guests gathered, a study, dining room and morning room were on the floor above. There would have been windows in the frames where the bookcases are now. It is hard to tell from the old drawings and photographs, but such windows were often clustered together giving an airy feel to the room.  

In the 16th or 17th century a garden was laid out overlooking the valley to the east of the house with walkways, flowerbeds and ornamental trees.  

The whole estate extended over about 1500 acres and consisted of  four manors ~ Urishay, Wilbrook, Trenant and Clothy Hopkin ~  eleven farms, a flour mill, two residential properties, a butcher’s shop, a carpenter’s shop, several smallholdings and cottages. As Lord, Thomas Delahay negotiated agreements with his tenants, set and collected rents, decided farming methods and improvements, and mediated land issues. Twice a year, the courts of the manor were convened to deal with local issues.  

Thomas Delahay appointed  

“…William  Allen  of  the  city  of  Hereford  gentleman  my  true  and  lawful  steward  of  and  for  my  several  manors  aforesaid  to  hold  and  keep  all  and  singular  courts  leet,  views  of  frankpledge,  courts  baron,  hundred  courts  and  all  and  singular  other  courts  that  have  been  usually  held  by  the  steward  of  the  said  manors  or  either  of  them.  And  do  hereby  as  far  as  I  have  power  give  and  grant  unto  him  the  said  William  Allen  full  power  and  authority  for  me  and  in  my  name  or  in  his  own  name  to  sit  as  a  bencher  or  suitor  of  the  county  court  held  at  Hereford  in  and  for  the  said  county  &  to  receive  and  take  to  his  own  use  all  such  lawful  and  reasonable  fees  and  perquisites  as  belong  to  the  office  of  bencher  or  suitor  of  the  said  court.”

Jurors considered issues pertaining to conflicts between neighbors and the care of public areas. Thomas Griffith was fined for letting his fence fall into disrepair so that his cows got out and trampled Richard Gronow’s field. To avoid a 9 shilling fine, Rev. William Seward, Walter Delahay and Henry Llanward were ordered to repair  

“a  common  foot  passage  over  the  Old  Brook  between  the  township  of  Hinton  &  Peterchurch  within  this manor  leading  from  Hinton  to  Wilmeston  is  in  decay  &  dangerous  to  passengers…”   

Maintaining the family status and landholdings was important, too,  as seen in the marriage settlement Thomas entered into for his son,  John, which provided £1,000 to Thomas (£240 in cash and the rest in  watermills and land) and provided that the “Castle or Manor of  Urishay, with all app[urtenances], Manor of Trilleshope al. Trenant,  Wilbrook and Clothy Hopkin, Farm called the Deyry and all other  lands in Peterchurch, Michaelchurch Eskley, Vowchurch, St. Margaret’s  and Hinton” be held in trust for “John, Deborah and male heirs  with provision for jointure for Deborah.”  

Religious activities formed an integral part of manorial life on some estates. Some devout Catholic and nonconformist families had clergymen in their households. These men often held positions as secretaries or tutors in order not to attract attention. Services were held, often in secret. Households that conformed to the established church also had chaplains. Many estates, both conforming and nonconforming, had chapels as did the Urishay Manor. It was common to assemble the household for prayers and to provide religious instruction. Landowners were expected to provide moral leadership in the community ~ they hosted dinners for their tenants at major religious feast days and provided for the sick and poor of the community.  

Leisure time would have been spent engaged in country sports such as shooting, hunting and even fishing in the small river Dore nearby.  There would have been game, pheasant, partridge and rabbit to hunt and fill the larder at the manor house. Many hands would have been employed to beat the bush or flush rabbits from their warrens with ferrets. These would primarily have been farm laborers from the estate, glad of a welcome change from toiling in the fields with hoes or following the rear end of a horse.  

Fox hunting provided sport not only for the lord of the manor and his friends but also for tenants and their families who would make up the field. These country pursuits remained unchanged for centuries.  

We know very few details of the Delahays’ reading habits, although Thomas Delahay did marry book collector John Brewster’s widow in1686. Thomas’ son John willed his books (except the theological volumes) to his cousin John. There were at least two booksellers active in Hereford , within 15 miles of the manor. The cathedral at Hereford housed (still houses) a significant library. Private book collectors in the vicinity included, in addition to John Brewster, his son William, a physician; Sir John, 1st Viscount Scudamore; and an assortment of rectors, vicars and canons. A study of their wills showed that the size of these libraries varied between 20 and 500 books.  

The manor drawing room is Jacobean in style. The oak paneling would have made the room warmer than the stone walls of the castle. The large windows would have made the room more pleasant than its predecessor. Many of the decorative elements were classical – the fluted frieze around the top capped with a dentil molding, ionic capitals, and caryatids – but they weren’t used in the same manner as the ancient Greeks and Romans did. The Tudor Rose and lion heads were frequently used in Jacobean decoration.  The ceiling is not original to the room, but is appropriate to the period. The furnishings are Jacobean, but are not original to the room. Notice the date, 1662, carved on the table.    

It is interesting to note that a great many Delahays settled in Wales and that the coats of arms above the bookcases are Welsh. Turning left from the fireplace, the first window pictures the arms of the Delahay family, a red sun with 12 rays. Continuing around the room,  windows show the crest of Deheubarth, an ancient region of southern  Wales and the arms of Iestyn ap Gwryant, who ruled in southern  Wales; Owain Gwynedd, the first Welsh prince; the Gwynedd & Llywelyn  family; and, Gruffydd ap Cynan, a 12th century Welsh ruler.   Three rooms, the drawing room, a dining room and study were put up for sale in 1913. Recycling buildings and parts of buildings had been going on for centuries. But changes in agriculture and to the social and economic structure of England accelerated as the 20th century hove into view. The manor ~ which had  employed house servants for  cooking, cleaning, building  fires, churning butter and  surely had gamekeepers,  coachmen, and gardeners  out-of-doors in the 17th century ~ had only 3 employees  in the 1880’s. Following WWI, many families found that they could not maintain their family seats. At the same time, following in the footsteps of the great world fairs, museums in Europe and later the US bought whole rooms to display to a public eager to learn about life in other places and times.  

The drawing room is shown in the first catalog for Charles Roberson’s showroom in London . His records burned in a fire, so it is impossible to know for sure, but apparently Miss Kate S. Buckingham, a benefactress of the Chicago Art Institute, acquired it for the museum. It was displayed there for a short time and appears in the February 1921 issue of the Bulletin of the Chicago Art Institute.  Shortly afterward, it was acquired by the Marshall Fields department store in downtown Chicago , and served to provide the proper ambiance for showing their antiques, silver and fine china.  

In 1961, David Mackey, architect for Mrs. Helen F. Spencer recommended  it for the Spencer Wing of the new Baker University Library  being built to house the Quayle Bible Collection. The dimensions of the wing had to be tweaked to accommodate the room, but it was a successful endeavor and continues to be an important part of the collection.   In the spring of 2006, Mr. Richard Delahay contacted the library starting a wonderful collaboration. We are indebted to him for the research he has done and his willingness to share it with the staff of the Quayle. Much of the information in this booklet was provided by him.

Bibles Signed by Recent US Presidents  

TRUMAN. Oxford Self-Pronouncing Bible (King James Version). Oxford :  at the University Press, no date.  

EISENHOWER. King James Bible. Chicago : The John A. Hertel Co., 1955. (Printed for the Masons)  

KENNEDY. The Holy Bible (from the Latin Vulgate). New York : Sheed  & Ward, Inc., 1954.  

JOHNSON. King James Bible. New York : American Bible Society,  1961.  

NIXON. The New English Bible with the Apocrypha. Oxford and Cambridge   University Presses, 1970.  

FORD. The New English Bible with the Apocrypha. Cambridge   University Press, 1972.  

CARTER. The New American Standard Bible Reference Edition.  Philadelphia : A.J. Holman Co., 1973.  

REAGAN. The New American Standard Bible. Nashville : Thomas  Nelson Publishers, 1977.  

BUSH, GEORGE H.W. The New Revised Standard Version. Nashville :  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.  

CLINTON . The New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas  Nelson Publishers, 1989.  

BUSH, GEORGE W. The New Revised Standard Version. Nashville :  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989

For more reading:  

J. T. Cliffe. The world of the country house in seventeenth century England .  New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1999 

Nicholas Cooper. Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680. New Haven : Yale   University Press, 1999  

Anne Clifford Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. The Diary of Lady Anne Clifford. London : W. Heinemann, 1923.  

John Harris. Moving rooms. New Haven & London: Yale University   Press, 2007.  

John Lawler. Book auctions in England in the Seventeenth Century.  London : Elliot Stock, 1898

The Quayle Bible Collection was a gift of Bishop William A. Quayle, sometime student, professor and president of Baker University . He built an outstanding collection of Bibles and other sacred materials.  These rare books and manuscripts include early handwritten and printed materials, handwritten scrolls, significant Bible translations and editions with an additional collection of related reference volumes.   More than 900 works are housed in the wing of Collins Library provided by Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer.   It is regularly open 1:00~4:00 on Saturday & Sunday afternoons through July 2013.



The original illustrated version of this booklet was produced by Baker University in 2012 as an exhibit for the Quayle Bible Collection, and can be downloaded as a PDF file .


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