At the south-eastern corner of the Spinney stands the eponymous
This Grade II-listed structure, standing 100ft high and built from local white
sandstone in 1764 by William Wentworth the second Earl of Strafford (1722-91),
is one of the follies of Boughton Park, a group of landmarks and buildings of
interest that were built to adorn the horizon view from Boughton Hall, then
owned by the Earl. Most of these follies still survive and are described
in a newly updated book by Simon Scott, "The
Follies of Boughton Park Revisited"*.
As the plaque on it states, the Obelisk was built to
commemorate the death of William Cavendish 4th Duke of Devonshire, and briefly
Prime Minister from November 1756 to July 1757. Cavendish had been
educated at Boughton and was a lifelong
friend of Wentworth, so his death from a stroke at the age of 45 saddened
Originally it bore the following inscription: "This Obelisk was erected in the year 1764
in memory of His Grace William Cavendish Duke of Devonshire. There in the
Rich, the Honour'd Fam'd and Great, See the false scale of Happiness Compleat".
The quotation is from Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, and a reflection on Cavendish's great wealth and fortune being snatched from him at
the prime of his life. Pope was a great friend of Wentworth's father, the
first Earl. The inscription was
unfortunately removed in the early part of
the 20th century by a tenant of the farmland on which it stood, in an attempt to
reduce the traffic from curious visitors across his land.
The Obelisk has suffered greatly from weather erosion over
its quarter of a millennium of existence, and in 1978 there was serious talk of
demolishing it. Happily though, Northampton Borough Council decided to
restore it instead, and in 1995 placed the plaque explaining its origins.
As the Spinney has grown in height over the years, the
Obelisk's original purpose as a horizon decoration has disappeared as nowadays the Obelisk cannot be
seen from Boughton Hall. In its day, standing on the highest bit of ground
in the area, it
must have been a very prominent and famous landmark, but is now sadly almost
lost in the modern housing of the Obelisk Rise housing estate, and obscured from
view on the northern side by the Spinney.
* "The Follies of Boughton Park
Revisited" can be ordered from the author, Simon Scott, by sending a cheque for
£10 to Simon
Scott, c/o Scott Publications, Moulton, Northampton NN3 7SH. Alternatively
it is on sale in Waterstones and at the Whyte Melville pub in Boughton.