Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Losing My Marbles


Apologies for my delay in getting the New Year started, but finding my way through the muddy byways of Unmitigated England has been particularly difficult since Christmas. But be of good cheer, because Saturday found me almost on my knees in front of this extraordinary monument. Warkton in Northamptonshire is part of the estate of Boughton House, which explains the delightfully unspoilt nature of the village, although it is but a marble's throw from the urban sprawl of Kettering. Both churchwarden and verger were so kind in letting me in, and I'm eternally grateful to their guided tour given just for us. Not just because the monuments in this light and airy mausoleum had hitherto been plates in the Shell Guide to Northamptonshire and corresponding Pevsner, but also because they will now be closed from view for essential repairs lasting the rest of this year. 

Facing each other are four set piece monuments commemorating the Dukes and Duchesses from the big house, two by that masterful sculptor Roubiliac (remember him at Southwick?), one by Thomas Campbell and this, a real showstopper, by Dutchman P.M.van Gelder. Robert Adam may or may not have designed the background apse, but no matter, this is sculpture to make you gasp, as we did. A full-on 1775 drama gathered around the essential urn with its beautifully incised verse to Mary Duchess of Montagu. This was a very special moment, the sun coming out and the sight out through the clear glass of the big churchyard trees moving in the wind.

5 comments:

Stephen Barker said...

I have somewhere some old postcards
of these sculptures, and have meant to go and see them. I wonder if the Church of England would welcome such sculptures today. Memorials have become very minimalist these days, for better or worse.

Peter Ashley said...

Very much an eighteenth-nineteenth century fashion of course; today we apparently have to have something useful if we going to memorialise. No longer huge marble tableaux in empty churches catching the moonlight, but the Deborah Hetherington Wickham Featherstonhaugh paddling pool.

Mike Biles said...

That part of the Midlands certainly has one or two treasures and it sounds like you enjoyed your personal tour! Excellent stuff. Following you as A Bit About Britain.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Staggering, the way they are caught mid-gesture, and even the drapery is mid-billow, as it were. Northamptonshire for squires, indeed.

Chris Partridge said...

Love the epitaph. Sycophantic doesn't begin to describe it...