Meddling with the image of Burton Constable Hall’s ‘difficult women’ for a modern age

FRESH LOOK: Curator Philippa Wood, with documents from a new exhibition taking a fresh look at women branded difficult and meddlesome, at Burton Constable Hall, near Hull. PIC: James Hardisty
FRESH LOOK: Curator Philippa Wood, with documents from a new exhibition taking a fresh look at women branded difficult and meddlesome, at Burton Constable Hall, near Hull. PIC: James Hardisty
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SOCIETY has long since seen those who fail to conform – especially women – as “difficult” or “meddlesome”.

A new exhibition at Burton Constable Hall attempts to answer the question as to whether they were truly difficult – or simply different.

Obstinate matriarchs, scandalous mistresses and learned ladies have been put under the spotlight in a new exhibition looking at the lesser-told stories of female influence in an English country house.

Rarely seen diaries, letters, sketchbooks and costume reveal their own insights into the artists and musicians who played a vital role in drawing, designing and purchasing the furnishings and fittings of the grand Elizabethan mansion nine miles from Hull.

They range from Eliza, a millionaire who failed to conform to societal pressure to marry, to Margaret who repeatedly risked imprisonment for the sake of her faith, to the flamboyant mistress Rosina whose scandalous marriage changed the Hall’s fortunes forever.

The Hall, run by the not-for-profit Burton Constable Foundation, announced last month, it had been won £85,000 funding to draw up a 25-year masterplan. It currently attracts around 32,000 visitors a year.