- L. H. Cust
- , revised by Trevor Brighton
Peckitt, William (bap. 1731, d. 1795), glass-painter, was born at Husthwaite, near Easingwold in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and baptized on 13 April 1731, the third of the six children of William Peckitt (1681/2–1776), fellmonger of Husthwaite and glove maker of York, and his wife, Ann (1690–1787), daughter of Thomas Hunt of Linton-on-Ouse. His grandfather and great-grandfather were also fellmongers from the North Riding, though he and his younger brother, Henry, claimed genteel origins from the medieval family of Picote of Yorkshire and assumed both a coat of arms and a crest. Peckitt appears to have helped in his father's business and to have moved with him to York before 1752 when his father had set up a glove-making business there. In the opening lines of his commission book he recorded that he began the art of painting and staining of glass at Michaelmas 1751. In 1752 he advertised in the York Courant that he had set up as a glass-painter in Colliergate, York.
Claims that Peckitt was taught by the glass-painter Henry Gyles (d. 1709) of Micklegate, York, are unfounded. Nor is there support for further claims that he was taught glass painting in London by William Price the younger (d. 1765), or that he was trained as a carver and gilder by his father-in-law, Charles Mitley of York. Mitley had died five years before Peckitt married his daughter Mary (1743–1826) on 3 April 1763, and twelve years after Peckitt declared himself a glass-painter. The declaration in Peckitt's trade notice that he had discovered the art 'by many experiments' was repeated in his letter to the Free Society of Artists of London in 1760. He continued to experiment throughout his fifty-five years as a glass-painter. In 1780 he patented an invention 'for blending Coloured and Stained Glass' (patents no. 1268), and by 1793 he had compiled a manuscript, intended for publication, entitled 'The principles of introduction into that rare but fine and elegant art of painting and staining of glass'.
Peckitt's first recorded commission, in October 1751, was for armorials for the deanery at York. John Fountayne, dean of York from 1747 to 1802, remained Peckitt's greatest single patron, and employed Peckitt throughout his working life in the repair and restoration of York Minster's medieval glass. Before he died Peckitt bequeathed three glass paintings to the minster to be inserted in the south transept, alongside his St Peter (1768). These were: Moses (c.1774), Abraham (1780), and Solomon (1780) (York Minster). Peckitt also painted the east windows of Lincoln (1762) and Ripon (1791) cathedrals and the west window of Exeter Cathedral (1767) (all subsequently removed and fragmented in lesser windows in the respective churches). At the same time he adorned with armorial glass the deaneries and episcopal palaces of York, Exeter, Lincoln, Peterborough, and Armagh. Peckitt's early work chiefly comprised heraldic and genealogical subjects, historical scenes and portraits, dogs, horses, and animals for nursery windows. He also restored old glass. It was a secular subject for York Guildhall, York's Car of Justice after Elkaniah Settle, which earned him the freedom of the city of York in 1754. Peckitt's patrons steadily increased and his work was in demand throughout the British Isles. He even secured a commission in France, probably through his connection with Horace Walpole, who turned to Peckitt to embellish Strawberry Hill following the retirement of William Price in 1760. Under that arbiter elegantiorum the growth of gothick taste brought added encouragement to Peckitt and the handful of his contemporaries who practised as glass-painters.
Peckitt's portraits on glass, such as William III and William, Duke of Cumberland (York City Art Gallery), were much admired and in 1761 the earl of Bute commissioned a portrait of George III. Peckitt's accomplishment in this genre is best represented by his self-portrait from his portrait in oils (c.1760) by Johan Schuster of Saxony (both York City Art Gallery). By contrast, his Presentation of Christ in the Temple (1767) at Oriel College, Oxford, displays weak colours and poor draughtsmanship, the cartoons being executed by Dr John Wall of the Worcester porcelain factory. His west window for the chapel of New College, Oxford (1765), depicting Christ, the Virgin and the Twelve Apostles, was also criticized for the want of good cartoons and was subsequently removed to the side windows of the chapel and replaced in 1787 by Thomas Jervais's Nativity and the Seven Virtues from cartoons by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Peckitt eventually employed two Italian draughtsmen who were among the founders of the Royal Academy, Biagio Rebecca and Giovanni Battista Cipriani. The former drew the cartoons for The Adoration of the Magi (1772) and The Last Supper (1771), which Peckitt painted for the Gothic chapel at Audley End, Essex. Rebecca also provided the cartoons for the Twenty-Four Patriarchs and Prophets which were inserted in three windows of New College chapel, Oxford (1774). Cipriani's cartoon was used for the allegorical window of the Muse Presenting Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Francis Bacon to George III (1775) (Trinity College Library, Cambridge).
Peckitt was a modest, private person devoted to his wife, who described him as 'a kind and affectionate husband and a pious Christian' (Mary Peckitt, epitaph), and their four daughters. In his last years he began to write and in 1794 published in York a religious tract entitled The Wonderful Love of God to Man, or, Heaven Opened in Earth. He died at his house at Friars' Walls, York, on 14 October 1795. His wife's last tribute to him was the execution and erection of his memorial window (1796) in the church of St Martin-cum-Gregory, York, where he was buried.
Though much of Peckitt's work was derided and removed during the Victorian Gothic revival, he helped keep the art of glass painting alive during the eighteenth century, and contributed to the revival of an acceptable post-Reformation hagiography in the Church of England.
- J. T. Brighton, ‘The enamel glasspainters of York, 1585–1795’, DPhil diss., University of York, 1978, vols. 2–3
- J. T. Brighton, ‘William Peckitt's commission book’, Walpole Society, 54 (1988), 334–453
- J. T. Brighton, ‘William Peckitt, greatest of the Georgian glass painters’, York Georgian Society Annual Report (1967–8), 14–24
- J. T. Brighton, ‘Cartoons for York glass: William Peckitt’, York Art Gallery Quarterly, 19 (Jan 1969), 779–83
- J. T. Brighton, ‘William Peckitt and portraiture on glass’, York Art Gallery Quarterly, 34 (Jan 1984), 3–11
- J. T. Brighton and B. Sprakes, ‘Medieval and Georgian stained glass in Oxford and Yorkshire’, Antiquaries Journal, 70 (1990), 380–415
- J. T. Brighton and R. G. Newton, ‘Peckitt's red glasses’, Stained Glass, 81/3 (1986), 214–20
- J. T. Brighton and R. G. Newton, ‘An interpretation of William Peckitt's 18th-century treatise on making glasses and the stains for them’, Glass Technology, 30/1 (1989), 33–8
- J. T. Brighton, ‘Reformation and post-Reformation stained glass in Britain’, The painter in glass, ed. A. Lloyd (1992)
- J. A. Knowles, ‘William Peckitt: glass painter of York’, Walpole Society, 17 (1928–9), 45–59
- J. A. Knowles, ‘William Peckitt: glass painter’, Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society Annual Report (1953–4), 99–114
- MS pedigree of Peckitt, York City Art Gallery
- parish register, St Helen's, York, 3/4/1765 [marriage]
- Essex RO, Southend, Audley End library
- Exeter Cathedral
- FM Cam.
- Lincoln Castle
- Lincoln Cathedral, fabric accounts
- New College, Oxford, muniments
- Patents Office, London, invention for blending coloured and stained glass, 1780, no. 1268
- Ripon Minster
- U. Nott.
- York City Archives, MSS, drawings, etc., E95/1696, B43/174, ACC/28/28
- York City Art Gallery, MSS, drawings, etc., Box D3
- York City Library, family Bible and books, Y927.48
- York Minster
- Yorkshire Philosophical Museum, York, glass and corresp. with V&A
- Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with John Charles Brooke
- W. Peckitt, self-portrait, glass, 1760 (after J. Schuster, 1760), York City Art Gallery
- J. Schuster, oils, 1760, York City Art Gallery
- J. Stordy, miniature, 1780, York City Art Gallery
- miniature, 1790, York City Art Gallery
- J. R. Smith, engraving
Wealth at Death
approximately £3815—in houses, glass materials, books, MSS, etc.: will, Borth. Inst.