The monumental history of one obelisk
14 October 2020
In the beautiful arboretum garden of Queen Victoria House stands an obelisk, Grade II Listed and an important feature of the landscaping. It is also the one surviving reminder of Vincent Lodge, the house which once stood there, and itself has an intriguing story.
As early as 1764, Andrew Drury’s Plan of Bristol, shows Vincent Lodge on the site where Queen Victoria House now stands. Vincent Lodge was leased by Jacob Ricketts from 1805 and, by then, included grounds to the front in which Ricketts erected an obelisk.
Obelisks in Britain have a long history, which began when sixteenth century English travellers saw and admired the obelisks in Rome which the emperors of old had pillaged from Egypt. By the 18th century, obelisks were springing up in fine parks and gardens everywhere, thanks largely to architects like Kent, Gibbs, Soane and Adam. By the 19th century the obelisk shape and proportions meant they were often used as commemorative monuments. There are over 1,000 throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
The limestone obelisk at The Vincent commemorates the death in childbirth at the age of 21, of Princess Charlotte in 1817. Jacob Ricketts was much affected by her death and, in her day, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld was a favourite of the British public, due mainly to her moderate liberalism which deeply contrasted to her father, King George IV, who was seen as a selfish and irresponsible squanderer. She had captured the hearts of the British public and as the future Queen of England, her early death caused great sadness throughout the country, with Henry Brougham (the future Lord Chancellor) writing that "It really was as though every household throughout Great Britain had lost a favourite child”.
The wording on the bronze plaque gives some idea of the high esteem in which she was held and the unusual political overtones to a Royal tragedy: “This Obelisk was erected by JACOB WILCOX RICKETTS to perpetuate the Memory of HER ROYAL HIGHNESS The much lamented and beloved PRINCESS CHARLOTTE of WALES and SAXE COBURG; Daughter of HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE REGENT, and Consort to his Serene Highness PRINCE LEOPOLD. This most illustrious Princess, the brightness of whose Character surpasses all transcript, was BORN Jany. 6th 1796. Was MARRIED May 2nd 1816. AND DIED Novr. 6th 1817. Thus were the Vine and Branch of true Whiggism and Britannia's most blooming expectation, by one irresistible stroke, together cut off.”
Charlotte was the only child of George IV and would have preceded Queen Victoria to the throne had she not passed away. Her son was sadly still born, setting in train Queen Victoria’s eventual succession to the throne. A small, intriguing, but none the less significant snippet of forgotten history, now preserved as a lasting commemoration and a focal point in the garden of Queen Victoria House.
To find out about life at The Vincent and the apartments in Queen Victoria House please call the sales team on 0117 981 4352 or email [email protected].