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Heraldry in Gilling Castle

This page compiled by Gill Smith 1996-99, as an Appendix to glossary of heraldic terms for reference. There are approximately 100 shields illustrated, and I am also considering adding shields for the wapentake panels.


Fairfax of Gilling Most of the heraldic shields are found in the stained glass windows of the Great Hall or Chamber which is now used as the school’s dining hall; it is open to the public at certain times. There are three windows: the main, bay window contains mainly Fairfax family connections, culminating in the arms of Sir William Fairfax himself; the South window contains the arms of the Stapletons and their connections (Sir William’s second wife was Jane Stapleton); the East window contains shields relating to the Constable family (Sir William’s son Thomas married Catharine Constable of Burton Constable) — this window is a little later than the other two. The Fairfax and Stapleton windows are by Bernard Dininckhoff; a small panel records his signature and the date 1585.

Some of the glass has been moved, and some is damaged or patched, but in general the shields of the successive generations are remarkably complete. There are informative panels in the glass which give details such as “Jaine Stapletone doughter & heire of Brian Stapletone esquire, who maried S Willm Fairfax Knight, biwhome he had issue Thomas Fairfax esquire”.

There are also shields over the main fireplace in the Hall, showing the Royal Arms of Elizabeth I; Fairfax quartered with Malbis, Etton, Carthorpe, Ergham and Folyfayt; and four small shields impaling Fairfax with respectively Bellasys, Curwen, Vavasour and Roos. It should be noted that at some time the Carthorpe and Bellasys arms have been re-painted in the wrong colours. This is very understandable as the smoke from the fire has darkened everything almost to black!

The frieze round the Great Chamber contains the famous “Wapentake Panels”. As Bilson says “The arms in the frieze as now painted are even less authentic than Elizabethan heraldry generally is, from the fact that errors and alterations have been made in repainting.” Partly because of this, partly because there is an enormous number of shields, and partly because the arms represented are not closely connected with the Fairfaxes and Gilling Castle, I have not included them here, though I may do so in future. Details can be found in Bilson’s article, and also in an excellent booklet by Hugh Murray on the Great Chamber, available from the Ampleforth Abbey/College bookshop.

In the outer hallway there is also a complex shield over the fireplace, I suspect of considerably later date. It shows Fairfax quartered with Malbis, Etton, Carthorpe, Ergham and Folyfayt as above and also Stapleton, Bellew(?) and Goddard(?). Note that if this really is Goddard it has been painted red instead of black (cf above).

An alphabetical list of those arms represented on the fireplaces and in the windows follows. (It should be noted that in most cases the actual shields are complex, with multiple quarterings. Here I have shown each individual coat of arms separately, for simplicity and ease of drawing!)

From Aldbrough Aldbrough to Zouche Zouche

Note on the Fairfax window there are a couple of obviously re-organised/inserted pieces of glass, which show: Quarterly 1 and 4, Or an inescutcheon between six martlets sable, 2 and 3 Or three boar’s heads erased within a bordure engrailed sable. It is not known whose these arms are. The first is similar to Brownlow (or an escutcheon between martlets in orle sable – but cf Erpingham), the second to Cruickshank (without the border).

© Gill Smith 1996–1999


Compiled by Gill Smith with help from Richard, Tim and Adrian; to send us your comments, please take a few moments to email us or fill in a short feedback form.

You can read more about the history of Gilling Castle and village in John Marwood’s short book History of Gilling which we also have on this web site, and visit the church too.

More heraldry from Stonegrave Minster.

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