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The Obelisk

At the south-eastern corner of the Spinney stands the eponymous Obelisk.  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 him greatly. 

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.