What happened to missing Maclise?

Print of the missing Maclise painting Chivalry
Print of the missing Maclise painting Chivalry

In the Spring of 1911, Sir Savile Brinton Crossley (later 1st Lord Somerleyton) offered three frescoes to Halifax Corporation, to commemorate the Coronation of King George V.

The gift accepted, today, the paintings grace the top of Halifax Town Hall’s grand staircase, having been installed later that year.

It was during the following October that Sir Francis Crossley’s son brought his wife (nee Phyllis de Bathe) to Halifax, and it was she who unveiled the paintings formally on 28th, 100 years ago.

Sir Savile was born in 1857, and spent much time in Halifax as a youngster, but never as an adult. He resided mostly at Somerleyton Hall, Suffolk, and in London. However, he frequently stayed here with his Yorkshire relatives, being a director at Dean Clough; and from 1900 to 1906 he served as a Conservative MP for Halifax.

The three paintings unveiled in October 1911 are not all the work of the same artist, although each features a romantic episode in the story of King Alfred.

The central painting is the work of Daniel Maclise, R.A., an Irish-born artist of Scottish descent. He was linked earlier with Halifax Town Hall, having in 1862/3 completed the fine sculpture work by John Thomas, on the tower.

The other two frescoes presented in 1911 were the work of John Calcott Horsley, R.A., a friend of Maclise. He was noted for his historical scenes; but was also a prolific illustrator, having some fame as the designer of the first Christmas card. I have not uncovered any evidence that Horsley ever visited Halifax.

It is little known that there was another, larger, painting also sent to Halifax by Sir Savile in 1911. This was not a gift, but a loan, and it was placed on display on the site of the present reception desk. Intriguingly, it is no longer around today.

The “missing” painting was another Maclise, much larger than the three frescoes. Its title was Chivalry of the Time of Henry VIII and it measured approximately 10 feet by seven feet. But where did it go? It does not seem to have been on display in Halifax Town Hall within living memory – unless you know otherwise. Neither Town Hall records nor local Archives can apparently provide the answer.

Had Sir Savile asked for the item back? The Hon. Hugh Crossley, son and heir of the present Lord Somerleyton, suggested to me that the painting might have been given to the House of Lords. I discovered that, indeed, a work by Maclise had been given to Parliament by Sir Savile; but it proved to be a different one! A search on the internet eventually brought to light a print of the picture in question (enclosed), originally painted for Somerleyton Hall, where it was until 1911.

Can anyone identify the missing painting’s current whereabouts?

David Glover

Baker Fold