Putney burial ground, Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London: monument to Robert Wood, 1775, unexecuted (3)
Robert Wood (1716-71) was the son of an Irish Presbyterian minister. He was well travelled, probably starting as a tutor to Grand Tourists, and he then worked as a private secretary. In 1751 he visited various parts of the near east, resulting in two publications, The ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor in the Desart (1753), and The ruins of Balbec, otherwise Heliopolos in Coelosyria (1757). It is for these two works that he is best remembered.
Robert Adam met Wood during his Grand Tour in Rome in 1755. They became friends, and in a letter to his sister, Betty, of the same year, Adam described Wood as a man ‘whose character is one of the most perfect among the Human Race. He is of universal learning possess'd of all Languages and having travelled all over the World to the best of purposes, has fund of stories serious and diverting which adapts him to all Capacities as a Learned, or as a Jovial Companion. He is intimate with all great people and all Nations and esteemed by those of his own, I mean of England.’
Owing to their friendship it is perhaps unsurprising that Adam made a design for a funerary monument to Wood who had been buried in a vault designed by Joseph Wilton in the burial ground on Upper Richmond Road, Putney. The scheme was not executed, and there are no known Adam drawings for the executed design, which comprises a sarcophagus ornamented with swags, anthemia, Doric columns, putti masks, skulls and an inscription by Horace Walpole. It is not known who designed the executed monument, but its style is not suggestive of Adam’s work.
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 59, 91; J. Fleming, Robert Adam and his circle, 1962, p. 148; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, p. 55; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 381, 389, Volume II, p. 267; ‘Wood, Robert (1716/17-1771)’, Oxford dictionary of national biography online