Saturday, 8 November 2014

Sir Bevil Grenville's Monument, Bath

Sir Bevil Grenville's Monument was erected in 1720 by Henry Grenville, Lord Lansdown, to commemorate his grandfather's great heroism at the spot where he was killed during the Battle of Lansdown in 1643. Standing 7.6 metres high the Monument is said to be the first war memorial to be erected in England. On the south face there is a description of the battle and two poems on the north side. On another side are the Royal arms of Charles II supported by those of Sir Bevil's eldest son John Grenville, 1st Earl of Bath (1628-1721) , and by the arms of the latter's first cousin General Monck, 1st Duke of Albermarle, KG (1608-1670). Monck was the pivotal figure in the Restoration of Charles II and for their support both men were elevated to the peerage.  The Monument is surmounted by a griffin supporting the Grenville arms.

The Battle of Lansdown was fought on 5 July 1643 on the hill just north of Bath. The Royalist army led by Lord Hopton attacked the Parliamentarian forces entrenched on top of the hill. Under the command of Sir Bevil Grenville, the Cornish Pikemen stormed the enemy position, but he was mortally wounded when the Parliamentarian horse counter-attacked although they were driven off. He received a fatal poleaxe to the head.

Inscribed on the Monument is the Elegy to Sir Bevil Grenville by William Cartwright, a fellow Royalist who was killed soon after, on 29 November 1643

                                           This was not Nature's courage nor that thing,
                                            We valour call which time and reason bring,
                                            But a diviner fury fierce and high,
                                            Valour transported into Ecstasy.

The Monument used to be the venue for the closing meet of the Duke of  Beaufort's Hunt, an occasion I was privileged  to attend on a number of times as a boy, many, many years ago.