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  • image SM volume 109/74

Reference number

SM volume 109/74


Finished design for an obelisk incorporating a clock and belfry, in honour of the Duke of Marlborough in October 1704, for an unknown site, although probably intended later for the grounds of Blenheim Palace


1 Elevation


10 feet to 2 9/10 inches


By Hawksmoor in pen and brown ink on face of obelisk, above entry door near bottom, Vicem gerit illa / Tonantis ('he conducts himself (or guides affairs?) like thunder'); and across bottom edge of sheet, Hispanum trepidare facit. pallescere Gallum ('he made the Spanish shudder and the French pale'); and at top right corner in C19 hand, 74 ; and on verso, by Hawksmoor, in centre of main sheet, in pen and ink, The Clock Case; and on left edge of sheet (seen from recto), Oct. 23. 1704.

Signed and dated

  • Dated on verso 23 October 1704

Medium and dimensions

Pen and brown ink over graphite under-drawing with small areas of grey wash, and pen and graphite shading. Laid paper, in two joined sheets, the smaller lower piece fixed the main piece with paste and two lumps of sealing wax. 510 x 175, comprising main sheet of 450 mm and attached lower sheet 105 mm, with 48 mm overlap




Sketch design for a clock case, probably in perspective view, inscribed and dated in pen and ink (see Inscribed and Notes, above).


Small fleur-de-lys, partly cut off (on edge of main sheet), and GP (same paper as 1, above)


Not previously published, this design is of particular interest as an early proposal to commemorate the victory of the Duke of Malborough the battle of Blenheim on 13 August 1704. The design is for a ceremonial clock with a bell mechanism incorporated in an obelisk set on a square podium and intended for a site on rough ground, possibly at the apex of a hill. The nature of the site is indicated by the loosely sketched lines on a slightly curved plane at the base of the design. The obelisk is crowned by a flag pole bearing a pennant and a seven-pointed garter star. Near the top of the obelisk is a clock with Roman numerals and a hand set at 12 noon in a circular banded frame that continues above and below in small and large circular loops, the largers ones framing louvred belfries. The bands may be references to the framing of the garter star. Near the bottom of the obelisk is a circular relief panel in a banded frame, the relief possibly of a field cannon. Its subject may relate to the Latin inscription below which compares Marlborough's leadership to thunder. Below this is a narrow door with a small oval window. The original sheet terminates just below this door, for the design has been extended downwards by the additional sheet, bearing the pedestal of the obelisk. This has its own door, with a simple frame and a three-block voussoired head. The pedestal is set on a broad plain plinth, resting on rough ground. Sketched over the join between the lower and main sheets are recumbent figures supporting the obelisk. They are plainly additions to the original design, as the left one is drawn over the vertical pen line of the left side of the obelisk. The lower addition to the original design is more roughly drawn than the main design: an upper fascia moulding has been added in pencil and a railing is indicated in faint pencil around the edge of the plinth. It is clearly an amendment for the setting of the obelisk in a landscape. If the inscribed date on the verso of the design denotes an initial scheme to celebrate the achievement of Marlborough, the amendment at the bottom of the sheet is a revision at a time when the obelisk could be set in a landscape. In all probability, the revision dates after the granting of the Royal Manor of Woodstock to Marlborough in February 1705.The verso of the drawing bears part of a rough sketch plan or perspective in a series of ruled lines, apparently in pen and ink, set parallel to each other and at anges. It is probably a sketch for the clock case in perspective view.


Not in Wren Society



Exhibition history

Death and Memory: Soane and the Architecture of Legacy, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 23 October 2015 - 2 April 2016

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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