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Cricket St Thomas, Somerset: St Thomas's Church: monument to Admiral Hood, 1st Viscount Bridport for Lady Bridport, 1814-1816 (24)

This online catalogue of drawings for the Soane monument was written by Madeleine Helmer in 2011 and is based on Christopher Woodward's typescript catalogue for the Soane Museum (1998).

Alexander Hood (1726-1814), 1st Viscount Bridport, was a naval officer and politician. Upon his death, his wife Maria Sophia commissioned Soane to design a monument in the parish church of Cricket St Thomas, Somerset. Lord and Lady Bridport had known John and Eliza Soane for more than three decades, Soane having been repeatedly commissioned to alter and add to their house, Cricket Lodge, from 1786 (q.v.), as well as act as Lord Bridport's London agent for his London properties (arranging fire insurance, leases and repairs). The two families had a lasting friendship, with Lady Bridport frequently requesting for Mrs Soane to accompany Soane on his visits to Cricket Lodge. The monument was Soane's last major work at Cricket St Thomas.

Lord Bridport began his career in 1741 as a captain's servant. He gained a succession of appointments and was eventually promoted tosecond-in-command in 1797 and Vice-Admiral in 1797. Hood was a Member of Parliament from 1784 to 1796, first representing Bridgewater and then Buckingham. In 1794 he was created Baron Bridport in the Irish peerage. At the end of his naval career, from 1797 to 1800, Bridport played a central role in the Napoleonic Wars commanding the Channel Fleet against the French. Upon his retirement in 1800 he was created 1st Viscount Bridport in the peerage of Great Britain. There are at least three portraits, including Reynolds's in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

Lord Bridport died 2 May 1814 and Soane's first designs for his monument are dated 9 December of that year. Alternative designs for the monument were sent to Lady Bridport for her approval from 1815 to 1816 and were amended according to her wishes. The generous variety and adaptation of Soane's designs is reflective of his good friendship with the Lord and Lady Bridport. At first, in January 1815, she found Soane's designs rather plain and requested more naval ornament (Priv. Corr. XIII.H.24). Designs then changedfrom a simple monumental tablet to a sarcophagus-shaped panel below an acroterion and with variant naval ornaments (drawings 3 to 7). In response to these designs, Lady Bridport wrotein May 1815 that she didnot find them suitable for a church (Priv. Corr. XIII.H.28). Subsequent drawings incorporate an aedicule and sarcophagus composition. In March 1816, Lady Bridport offeredSoane assistance with the family heraldry, sending him a few examples of the family seal for his information(Priv. Corr. XIII.H.26). Soane's subsequent designs incorporate her suggestions, having the Hood achievement of arms. The built monument has a sarcophagus-like base supporting an aedicule that frames a tablet. The Hood achievement of arms is in front of the strigillated sarcophagus, and a Cornish chough (the family crest) caps the pedimented top.

Lord Bridport never acquired the heroic or dashing reputation of contemporaries such as Lord Collingwood, Nelson, or indeed his elder brother Samuel, Viscount Hood; in keeping with Bridport's reputation, the monument does not resemble those patriotic monuments erected in St Paul's Cathedral. Soane experimented with various naval trophies but these were never executed. The monument was kept modest, as the inscription reads:

For His Bravery, for his Abilities / For his Achievements in his Profession / For his Attachment to his King, and his Country, / Consult the annals of the British Navy, / Where they are written in Indelible Characters. // Let this Monument record his private virtues. / He was a sincere and pious Christian, / A faithful and Affectionate Husband, / A Warm and Steady Friend to Merit / Benevolent to the Brave and Virtuous in Distress: / Kind to his Domestics and Dependents, / The Patron of unprotected Youth, / The Poor Man's Benefactor, the Seamens' Friend, / Beloved, Revered, and Deplored by All.

The monument was placed in St Thomas's Church, close to Cricket Lodge. An undated bill states that the monument cost Lady Bridport £310:14:4 (Priv. Corr. XIII.H.32). The bill shows that Soane charged only £15, about a 5% commission.

Literature:
R. Morris, 'Hood, Alexander', Oxford dictionary of national biography online (accessed July 2011); G. Darley, John Soane: an accidental Romantic, 1999, pp. 79-80; G. Waterfield ed, Soane and Death, 1994, pp. 102-5.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011
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