Now near neighbour to a Rotherham suburb, Keppel’s Column originally stood in open ground on the edge of Scholes Wood on the Wentworth Woodhouse estate. An obelisk had been proposed for the site as early as 1769. Its original purpose was as an eye-catcher to terminate the southern vista from the new principal front of the Wentworth House mansion, balancing the pyramidal Hoober Stand to the north which is dated 1748. Keppel’s Column was clearly visible from the top of Hoober Stand, as was the Lady’s Folly, which featured here recently https://thefollyflaneuse.com/ladys-folly-tankersley-south-yorkshire/. All three ornamental buildings could be seen from each other, and when guests were taken by carriage to climb a tower, or take tea in a summer house, they served to display the vast size of the Marquis of Rockingham’s estate.
Root houses, so named because they incorporated natural materials such as tree trunks, branches, bark, moss or heather, became key features of gardens and parks in the 18th century. Richard Payne Knight summed up the genre in his poem The Landscape in 1794
The cover’d seat, that shelters from the storm,
May oft a feature of the landscape form,
Whether composed of native stumps and roots,
It spreads the creeper’s rich fantastic shoots;
Clarkson’s History of Richmond, revised in 1821, recounts that Cuthbert Readshaw created a ‘highly romantic walk’ by the Swale in 1760. Cuthbert Readshaw, who died in 1773 was a merchant who lived in the Bailey (ie the market place) in Richmond, and according to his will he was in ‘the business of wine and spirits and other branches of trade’.
To access the walk 18th century visitors would have travelled downhill from the town centre and crossed the river via the Green Bridge. Promenading along the south bank of the River Swale they would have encountered the picturesque scene of leafy Billy Bank Wood (aka Bordel Bank) and occasional artful outbreaks of the craggy rock face behind. Tucked in the woods was the cleft or cave known as Arthur’s Oven, conjuring romantic images of ancient and wilder times.