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Boconnoc, Cornwall: monument to Richard Lytelton for 1st Baron Camelford, c. 1786 (1)

Signed and dated

  • 1786


In 1786, Soane repaired an obelisk monument in the park at Bocconoc, for which there is this one surviving drawing. The obelisk had been struck by lighting in July 1783. Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford, designed and erected the 123 foot structure in 1771 as a monument to his uncle. The drawing shows the damaged obelisk and a design for the proposed pyramidal tip. It has been slightly altered in pencil. Lord Camelford was advised by a French philosopher in Montpellier to use iron tipped with gold for the conductor. The executed version, however, was made of brass, perhaps at the suggestion of Soane who wrote to Camelford, 'nobody whom I have had the opportunity of conversing with on the subject recommends gold'.

The obelisk was repaired by August 1788, when Soane reported to Camelford that 'the obelisk has a charming effect - it is really magnificent'. He also described how the work on the obelisk took place: 'the man who is at Boconnoc went down the inside - there was no water but the air was so warm and bad that he was glad to return with all dispatch. It therefore has air holes let in as per sketch'. Lord Camelford did not return until 1792, and died in Florence in 1793. The final bill totalled £807.17.10 and was settled on the 30th May 1791. According to his usual rate of 5%, Soane would have received approximately £40.

Soane also made extensive alterations to the house from 1786 but there are no drawings of his designs in the collection. Camelford was an early patron of Soane, commissioning him to work on other properties as well: Petersham Lodge near Richmond, Camelford House in Mayfair and Burnham Westgate in Norfolk.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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Contents of Boconnoc, Cornwall: monument to Richard Lytelton for 1st Baron Camelford, c. 1786 (1)