architecture, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Lincolnshire, Obelisk, Summerhouse

Arches & Obelisk, Stoke Rochford, Lincolnshire

Moments from the Great North Road, as it passes through Lincolnshire, is Stoke Rochford Hall in its lovely undulating park. The present house is a delicious early Victorian confection of towers and turrets, contemporary with the obelisk. But there were earlier houses in the park, and two intriguing arches are reminders of an earlier age.

The present house by architect William Burn. Photo courtesy of Stoke Rochford Hall Hotel.

In 1806 the then owner of Stoke Rochford Hall, Edmund Turnor (1754-1829), M.P. and antiquarian, published Collections for the history of the town and soke of Grantham…  In it he wrote that the ‘front of the stables’, built in 1676, was ‘still remaining, and contrived as to form the west end of the gardens’.

On the opposite hill, he continued, was a ‘summerhouse corresponding with the centre of the stables’. The Historic England list entry says the summerhouse is dated 1704, although it is difficult to decipher the plaque today. Below the plaque, carved directly into the fabric of the summerhouse, is a Latin inscription which records that Sir Edmund Turnor, Knight Bachelor, (1619-1707) placed the building here when he was 86, which would have been in 1705 or 1706.

The summerhouse dated 1704. It is now roofless.

By 1815, when the Ordnance Survey drawings were prepared, the front of the stables was no more, and the entrance arch had been rebuilt as an eye-catcher to be seen both from the drive to the house, and from its twin arch summerhouse. This recycled arch bears a plaque with the date 1676 and the inscription ‘Qu’o conspectior e’o humilior’: The more I am noticed, the more humble [I am]. Both are today listed at Grade I.

This arch bears the date 1676 and was formerly part of the stables. Both arches are popular with the ovine population of Stoke Rockford.

In 1847 Charles Turnor (1768-1853), Prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral, antiquarian, and ‘patron of science’, added to the ornaments in the park by erecting an obelisk in memory of Sir Isaac Newton, who was born in nearby Woolsthorpe. The monument was the work of the architect William Burn (1789-1870), who was then working on remodelling the village church, having designed the new house a few years earlier.

The grade II* listed obelisk.

The obelisk was announced to the world in the pages of an Astronomical Society Report in early 1848, and this was picked up by the press and the news more widely circulated. The report included the full inscription, but to summarise here: Charles Turnor erected the monument in 1847 in memory of Sir Isaac, and his inscription exhorts ‘the inhabitants of the surrounding district’ never to forget that so great a man was born, and began his education, ‘in the immediate neighbourhood’.

‘Newton Obelisk at Stoke Rochford’. The charming work is not signed, but may be by Charles Turnor himself: he was described in an obituary as a ‘clever artist’. RS.13842 MS/648/1/140/2 ©The Royal Society.

Stoke Rochford Hall has been in institutional use since it was requisitioned during the Second World War. For 38 years it served as a hotel and conference centre for the National Union of Teachers, and in 2016 it was leased to a hotel and wedding venue operator. The estate remains with Turnor descendants.

The hotel has all the usual food offerings, and the landscape, which also features a lovely lake and a cascade, can also be viewed from public rights of way. The very pretty little village is worth exploring, and there are wonderful Turnor and Cholmeley (of Easton) monuments in the church.

For more on the hotel

Thanks to the newly-recruited Classics Correspondent for help with the Latin inscriptions.

If you would like to share any thoughts or further information, please scroll down to the comments box at the foot of the page. Thank you for reading.


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8 thoughts on “Arches & Obelisk, Stoke Rochford, Lincolnshire”

  1. Julie O'Hara says:

    I have been enthusing about Stoke Rochford and particularly the Hall Hotel for the last few years – if you are ever in the Stamford area of the A1, do schedule a visit, if only for coffee in the spectacular lounges. The staircase is an absolute wonder (look at the hotel pictures on line) and the marble fire places spectacular. It has a small Operation Market Garden exhibition and a weird glass fire surround and – as FF says the grounds are delightful and free to wander round. It is, needless to say because we have stayed there, very cheap to stay in the stable block. The village and church make it a worthy diversion that I will continue to recommend.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Julie. Very pleased to find a fellow Stoke Rochford fan – I only called in to see the obelisk I had read about, and there were all these other treats in the grounds and in the village! It will definitely become our coffee stop on trips up and down the A1.

  2. David Allum says:

    Dear FF,
    The reminder emails for your wonderful site stopped coming a few weeks ago. I have tried to re-subscribe a number of times and it always fails. Can you help please.
    David Allum.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello David. Thanks for your kind comments and I am sorry that you are having problems. I don’t know what has happened but I will endeavour to find out.

  3. Keren says:

    Stoke Rochford Hall was a teacher training college before becoming the HQ of the NUT: it was also the sole provider of entertainment for the kids from the local grammar schools in the 1970s, as it hosted at least a disco and generally a band every Saturday night, in order to stave off boredom-generated insanity amongst the students marooned amongst miles and miles of nothing BUT sheep. The college ran a bus from and to Grantham town centre, which is how we locals managed to access this den of iniquity (the was also a bar that sold Stella Artois). Discos in the 1970s were hardly unusual, but this one played almost exclusively prog and rock music (yes, you CAN dance to prog!) which made it a haven for our particular teen sub-culture, who were known as ‘hairies’ or ‘freaks’. We bore roughly the same relationship to hippies as Emos did to Goths later on: we wore almost exclusively jeans and Indian cheesecloth, lots of beads, and in the case of males, excessively flared jeans, beards, and most of the orient’s output of patchouli oil (I think I was about 17 before I realised that this was *not* the natural smell of the male of the species!). The bands were never anyone you’d ever heard of – though Shakin’ Stevens played there at least twice before hitting the heights of fame – but it provided everything a teen of the era needed: affordable loud music, strong drink and a large, dark parkland in which to explore the possibilities of sexual liberation. Happy days!

    As for the follies, I found them incredibly boring (and still do) – but then, my taste in architecture which was at this time best defined as Pre-Raphaelite ‘medieval-ish’ (I lived less than a mile from Harlaxton Manor) was refined by a gift of a book by my best friend at school, which featured the work of William Burges, and I was, from that point, a full-on Goth of the other variety!

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Keren. Thanks for sharing your memories. I’m sure there must be some gothic follies that meet with your approval!

      1. Keren says:

        Oh, there are lots! I particularly like the Gothic Temple at Painshill, but I confess to being something of a saddo – I have a 1999 paperback edition of Headley & Meulenkamp *specifically* for ticking off follies I have visited!

        1. Editor says:

          That sounds sensible rather than sad to me.

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