Dimensions: 100cm x 160cm
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Above the lintel of a doorway into one of the Museum’s galleries near to the Entrance Hall sits a colourful stained glass window representing the crest of the Abercorn family, who owned Bentley Priory between 1788 and 1863.
The stained glass window is semi-circular, with the arch of the semi-circle at the top. It has a border of indigo blue glass. In the centre of the stained glass window is the Abercorn coat of arms, which is a shield divided into four quarters. The top left hand quarter and bottom right hand quarter of the shield are both red, with 3 simple white flowers in both quarters, symbolising good tidings. The top right and bottom left quarters are white and each contain the black silhouette of a ship, with a sail and 3 oars. Circling the outside of the shield is a blue belt with 2 buckles. In yellow writing within the belt is the wording ‘Sola Nobilitas Virtus’ meaning ‘virtue is the only nobility’ in Latin. To the left of the shield are two crowns entwined with trailing, dusky pink roses. On the right are two crowns entwined with trailing red thistles.
The crowns depict four different nobilities; Viscount, Earl, Marquess and Duke. It is likely that this window relates to James Hamilton, the 1st Duke of Abercorn and grandson of John James Hamilton, the 1st Marquess, who had bought Bentley Priory in 1788. The roses and thistles symbolise the family’s link to both England and Scotland.
The Abercorn family were blighted by tragedy when living at Bentley Priory. The 1st Marquess’s first wife and first five children died before him from tuberculosis. As a result of having no surviving son, when the 1st Marquess died in 1818, his title passed to his 7 year old grandson – James Hamilton.
James Hamilton, 2nd Marquess of Abercorn, moved his family to the Abercorn family home in Ireland. He later became the 1st Duke of Abercorn. The Duke never returned to live at Bentley Priory and the property was rented out for several years.