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Lord Cobham's Monument

Stowe: The Grecian Valley



Lord Cobham's Monument As John Martin Robinson suggests, this monument may look to modern eyes more like a lighthouse than a classical column. This appearance derives to a great extent from its octagonal, as opposed to cylindrical, shape and the exaggerated flutes in each of the eight faces. It is essentially a Doric column, however, though hollow with a spiral staircase leading to a platform in the belvedere at the top. It was completed by 1749, the year of Lord Cobham's death.

In fact, it was designed not only as a memorial to Lord Cobham, commissioned by his wife, but as a viewing tower from which one could see the entire garden (and, as Bevington remarks, parts of five counties). An eyecatcher in its own right, standing 115 feet tall, it can be seen not only from the Temple of Concord and Victory in the Grecian Valley but also from the Temple of Friendship at the southern end of Hawkwell Field. The Survey remarks that the monument "is similar to, and may have been inspired by, the column erected slightly earlier by the Duchess of Marlborough to her husband at Blenheim."

During extensive renovation in 2000-2001, the statue of Lord Cobham was returned to its original place atop the belvedere (it had been destroyed in 1957 when lightning struck it), and the entire structure was limewashed to give it an even pale yellow color and to protect the stone from the elements. The base of the Monument is decorated with stone lions on the four buttresses and with plaques displaying quotations from two of Alexander Pope's Moral Epistles -- one dedicated to Lord Cobham on the characters of men and the other dedicated to the Earl of Burlington on the proper use of riches. The two inscriptions read as follows:

And you, brave Cobham, to the latest breath,
Shall feel your ruling passion strong in death;
Such in those moments, as in all the past,
Oh, Save my Country, Heaven! shall be your last.

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That bids the waters rise, or gently fall;
That helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches op'ning glades,
Unites the woods, and varies shades from shades;
Nature shall join you; Time shall make it grow
A work to wonder at,---perhaps a Stowe.

Lions at the base of Lord Cobham's Monument

Both Bevington and Robinson report that the base also carries a Latin epitaph celebrating Lord Cobham's achievements during war and peacetime:

He served his country as well in the cabinet as in the field, and adorned it by a more elegant system of modern gardening first illustrated here.

This is followed by a passage from Cicero:

How many have imitated the magnificence of of Lucullus' villas! But how few have aspired to emulate his virtues.

For a supplemental page showing the interior of the belvedere and a panorama from that spot, please follow this link.

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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, jtatter@bsc.edu