Friday 18 August 2023

The Nightingale Monument in Westminster Abbey.


The Nightingale Monument.

Westminster Abbey.

Commissioned in 1758 and erected 1761.

Joseph and Elizabeth Nightingale (d. 1752 and 1731).

A great deal has been written about this most dramatic of the Roubiliac monuments. 

See - Roubiliac and the Eighteenth Century Monument By David Bindman and Malcolm Baker. pub. Yale 1995. 

Until very recently it has only been possible to obtain recent photographs through the official Westminster Abbey channels. I was threatened with ejection on a previous visit - but thankfully common sense has prevailed and they have relaxed their rules and it is now possible to take photographs in the abbey.

I was hampered here - unable to get a very good photograph of the full monument and so I'm adding the official, poor quality website photograph. Why are they so mean spirited (forgive the pun)? Why do the powers that be do this? are they afraid of people making money out of them?


The Roubiliac Terracotta Maquette.

Height 530 x Width 32 cms

Inscribed 1758 / Roubiliac in.

This model was rediscovered in 1870 in the Triforium at the Abbey  It might be the Plann mentioned in a minute dated 13 Feb 1758.

Equally it could be another " design which was sold at the posthumous sale Roubiliac Sale, Friday 14 May 1762, Third day, Lot 71. and possibly again  by a Mr Jackson at Christies Lot 88, 22 July 1807.

Other designs (drawings?) were sold in Nollekens sale of2/5 December 1823, Lot 252.


Watercolour Drawing by Edward Burney c. 1800, in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The missing jaw bone of Death is clearly visible.

Situated in St Michael’s chapel, off the north transept of Westminster Abbey, is the monument commemorating Lady Elizabeth Nightingale. She was born in 1704, the eldest of three daughters of Washington Shirley, Earl Ferrers and Viscount Tamworth (d.1729) and his wife Mary. Her sisters were Selina, Countess of Huntingdon (d.1791 aged 83) of Chapel fame, and Mary, Viscountess Kilmorey who died in1784. 

On 24 June 1725 Elizabeth married Joseph Gascoigne (1695-1752), son of the Revd. Joseph Gascoigne, Vicar of Enfield in Middlesex. He assumed the surname of Nightingale on becoming heir to his kinsman Sir Robert Nightingale. Of their three sons, Washington, Joseph and Robert, only the first survived his father but then only by two years. She died on 17 August 1731 following a miscarriage caused by the shock of a violent flash of lightning. 

Their child, Elizabeth, survived and later married Wilmot Vaughan, 1st Earl of Lis

The monument by Roubiliac was not erected until 1761.

 “Here rest the ashes of JOSEPH GASCOIGNE NIGHTINGALE of Mamhead in the county of Devon Esqr., who died July the 20th 1752 aged 56. And of Lady ELIZABETH his wife, daughter and coheir of WASHINGTON Earl Ferrers; who died August the 17th 1734 aged 27. Their only son WASHINGTON GASCOIGNE NIGHTINGALE Esqr. deceas’d, in memory of their virtues, did by his last will order this monument to be erected”.


The Nightingale Monument.

Mezzotint, 1806.

Philip Dawe.

Mezzotint. 62.5 x 38.3 cms.


Scratched within the image with the title, and "Pubd by R Pollard June 6 1806 / Roubiliac, Statuary Engraved by P Dawe"

Image courtesy British Museum.


I expect this image is copyrighted if anyone wants to use it be warned - frankly it is such a poor photograph that it is only useful to give the overall impression. The image from a Tuck postcard below is available foc and CCO

To anyone interested please feel free to use my photographs but please credit me and the blog.





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