Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Rigg family monument, St Lawrence's, York

First a confession: I made two trips to St Lawrence's, York. The photograph of the tower was taken on the Sunday and I went back the next day, when I took the photograph of the plaque that was being placed on it.

I went back because on the Sunday evening because I had read about the Rigg family monument on York Stories:
Mr Rigg was a seedsman with premises on Fishergate. The sons and daughters of John and Ann Rigg went for a boating excursion on the Ouse on 19 August 1830, with friends. Their rowing boat met a keel near Acomb landing and collided with it, and they were thrown into the water. Six members of the family were drowned. 
Public grief in response prompted a subscription fund, to pay for this once grand memorial, with a sculpture in marble by William Plows, and a specially commissioned verse from Sheffield poet James Montgomery.
As you can see from the photograph above, the monument is now decrepit. But York Stories links to a photograph of it when it was maintained and also this description of it from 1839:
This affecting testimony of friendship has a very handsome appearance. The vault is covered by an entombment in form of a pediment, a squandril in front having a serpent in relief, coiled in a circle, as an emblem of eternity. Above this rises the basement of the ground-work of the monument, whereon stand two massy square stone pillars, elegantly carved in front with ivy leaves, expressive of friendship. These are surmounted by a fine Grecian cornice, designed after a monument erected over some youths at Thysillus, and which has stood there above 2000 years. Branches of palm and wreaths of laurel are introduced in the frieze. 
The interior work is wholly of marble, the ground of Italian dove. The tablet is of white marble, supported by water and ruffled leaves ... The tablet is surmounted by a bold cornice, which supports a massive urn, partially concealed by drapery, all wrought in white marble. The height of the monument is ten feet, and it is eight and a half wide. The whole is very well executed, and both the design and the sculpture are very creditable to the talents of Mr. Plows, of this city, by whom it was erected.
It looks as if this monument and the loss it records have been forgotten. Yet when I told the man putting up the plaque on the tower the tale - the six Rigg children were aged between 19 and 6 - he winced.

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