Obelisk, dated 1734. Likely to be executed from a design by James Gibbs, constructed by the Bower family (Joseph Bower), estate masons for Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford.
Reasons for Designation
Queen Anne’s Obelisk at Wentworth Castle, dated 1734, likely to designs by James Gibbs and constructed by the Bower family (Joseph Bower), estate masons for Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as the only known monument in an English landscape setting to bear a coded pro-Jacobite inscription and as such a fascinating physical insight into the political machinations of the well-educated classes in the early C18;
* Design: as an impressive, ashlar stone obelisk likely to have been designed by James Gibbs for the 1st Earl of Strafford’s Wentworth Castle estate and forming a notable component of the designed landscape;
* Group value: the obelisk has an aesthetic relationship with the other C18 structures and pleasure buildings of the estate such as Menagerie House (c1717, Grade II), Stainborough Castle Gothick folly (1728-30, Grade II*), the Duke of Argyll’s Monument (1744, Grade II*), Rotunda Temple (1746, Grade II*), the obelisk to Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu (1747, Grade II), and the Serpentine Bridge (1758, Grade II) which form the designed landscape (Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens) in which Wentworth Castle (various dates, Grade I) stands.
The Stainborough estate was sold to Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (2nd creation, 1672-1739) in 1708. Wentworth had bought the estate after the nearby Wentworth Woodhouse estate was inherited by another branch of the family, the Watson Wentworths. He immediately set about developing the house and grounds in rivalry and to press his claim to the title of Earl of Strafford. In 1731 he renamed the estate Wentworth Castle.
It is known that James Gibbs designed the long gallery for the main house (due to a 1724 receipt). Around this time Gibbs was also preparing ‘A Book of Architecture’ (published in 1728), which was the first English pattern book to contain designs for garden buildings and outdoor ornaments. It was aimed at gentlemen, ‘especially in the remote parts of the Country, where little or no assistance for Designs can be procured…with Daughts…which may be executed by any Workman who understands Lines, either as here Design’d, or with some Alteration…easily made by a person of Judgement’. Two plates were devoted to six different designs for obelisks. The Earl was a subscriber and there is a strong likelihood that the design of Queen Anne’s Obelisk dated 1734 was taken from the pattern book. Estate archives record payments to the Bower family, the estate masons, for the building of the obelisk and installation of the surrounding bollards.
The Earl located the obelisk at the lowest and most easterly point of his extended garden, beside the public road at the edge of Morley Common and visible from the long gallery in the main house. At this time the ornamental approach to the house was a straight avenue over a mile long from the village of Birdwell to the SE, which intersected with the public road at the obelisk, which then continued northwards along the western edge of Menagerie Wood. The obelisk was thus prominently displayed. It is shown, along with the 1746 Rotunda Temple, in two landscapes of the estate by Thomas Bardwell, dated 1751 and 1752, and also an anonymous painting of c1750.
Thomas Wentworth was a Jacobite: a supporter of the exiled Stuart claimants to the throne. The exiled Stuart king, James III, had created him a ‘Lord Regent’ in 1722, elevated him to the status of Duke of Strafford in the Jacobite peerage, and appointed him commander-in-chief of all his Majesty’s forces north of the River Trent. Although a minister to the Protestant Queen Anne, this obelisk is a coded statement of his allegiance to a Stuart successor. The inscription refers to the Earl as one of the seven appointed ‘REGENTS of the KINGDOME during the absence of the SUCCESSOR…’. There is no mention of King George I, the deliberate ambiguity being a Jacobite tactic driven by the denial of ‘King George’ when they considered the Catholic King James to be the true successor, a treasonable offence. The Catholic poet, Alexander Pope, likewise referred to ‘the Successor’ at this time, since interpreted as Pope expecting a Jacobite intervention in the succession of the monarchy. The inscription refers to the Earl as a Regent, a role he was appointed to by James, rather than his latter role during the interregnum, which was actually as a Lord Justice. It is also deliberately opaque in its mention of the Earl as ‘Viscount Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse..’, the nearby house and estate which his cousin had left to a nephew rather than him, much to his annoyance.
Obelisk, dated 1734. Likely to be executed from a design by James Gibbs, constructed by the Bower family (Joseph Bower), estate masons for Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford. Sandstone ashlar.
The obelisk is constructed of sandstone ashlar blocks. It has a two-step plinth and a deep, square die with a projecting band above which the sturdy obelisk rises with a pyramidal cap. An inscription on the E side of the obelisk (facing towards the road) reads:
‘To the PIOUS / GLORIOUS (both lines damaged by stone scaling) / and immortal memory of / Queen ANNE / this (word damaged by stone scaling) Obelisk was erected / by (word damaged by stone scaling) her faithfull Minister / Thomas (name damaged by stone scaling) WENTWORTH Earl of STRAFFORD / Viscount WENTWORTH of WENTWORTH / WOODHOUSE, and of STAINBROUGH, / Baron of RABY, NEWMARCH and OVERSLEY, / and Knight of the (two words damaged by stone scaling) most noble order of the Garter ‘1734’
An inscription on the S side of the obelisk reads:
‘Which said EARL / at the death of that most / Excellent PRINCESS / Was one of the seven appointed by act / of PARLIAMENT to be REGENTS of the / KINGDOME during (two words damaged by stone scaling) the absence of the / SUCCESSOR as (two words damaged by stone scaling) first Lord of the admiral- / ty of great BRITAIN (two words damaged by stone scaling) and IRELAND, was / likewise Lieu: (two words damaged by stone scaling) General of all her Majesty’s / Forces’ Colonel of the first and Royal Regt / of Dragoons was of the Cabinet and Privy / Councel Ambassador Extraordinary to the / States’ General and likewise Plenipotentiary / for the Congress and peace of UTRECHT.’
There are 16 low, octagonal bollards set in a circle around the base of the obelisk, one now (2016) displaced and one broken.