Sandstone memorial cross, 1869, by EW Godwin.
Reason for Listing
The monument to the Dowager Countess Glentworth is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design interest: a rare instance of a funerary monument by the leading Aesthetic Movement architect EW Godwin.
* Group value: with nearby listed monuments within the Grade I registered Kensal Green Cemetery.
Edward William Godwin (1833-86) was the leading architect-designer of the Aesthetic Movement. Born in Bristol, he was articled to the local architect William Armstrong, and afterwards worked in the West Country and in Ireland, where he spent the period between 1856 and 1858. His career took off in 1861 when he won the competition for the new Northampton Town Hall with a bold Ruskinian Gothic design. Godwin moved to London in 1865 and soon established himself among the capital’s bohemian elite, forming friendships with prominent artists and aesthetes including William Burges, James McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde. His major architectural project of this period was Dromore Castle in Ireland (1866-73), a huge fortified pile for the third Earl of Limerick, who in 1869 commissioned him to design a memorial for his grandmother Annabella, Dowager Countess Glentworth; its Celtic cross design presumably derives from the Irish antiquities that Godwin, a passionate antiquarian, had studied during the 1850s.
Godwin’s later commissions included a series of daringly minimalist studio-houses in Chelsea, including Whistler’s celebrated ‘White House’ on Tite Street (1877-8, now demolished). His energies were, however, increasingly devoted to furniture and interior design, and he is now associated above all with the ‘Anglo-Japanese’ movement of the 1870s and 80s. His scandalously unorthodox lifestyle – he lived for seven years and had two children with the actress Ellen Terry, at that time still married to the painter GF Watts – and self-cultivated reputation as a creative genius made him one of the celebrities of the late-Victorian art world; Max Beerbohm called him ‘the greatest aesthete of them all’.
The Cemetery of All Souls at Kensal Green was the earliest of the large privately-run cemeteries established on the fringes of London to relieve pressure on overcrowded urban churchyards. Its founder George Frederick Carden intended it as an English counterpart to the great Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, which he had visited in 1821. In 1830, with the financial backing of the banker Sir John Dean Paul, Carden established the General Cemetery Company, and two years later an Act of Parliament was obtained to develop a 55-acre site at Kensal Green, then among open fields to the west of the metropolis. An architectural competition was held, but the winning entry – a Gothic scheme by HE Kendall – fell foul of Sir John's classicising tastes, and the surveyor John Griffith of Finsbury was eventually employed both to lay out the grounds and to design the Greek Revival chapels, entrance arch and catacombs, which were built between 1834 and 1837. A sequence of royal burials, beginning in 1843 with that of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, ensured the cemetery’s popularity. It is still administered by the General Cemetery Company, assisted since 1989 by the Friends of Kensal Green.
The monument takes the form of a tall Celtic cross on a two-stage base. It is carved of red sandstone, now much worn. The forward face of the shaft resembles a ladder, with six rectangular hollows (intended as inscription panels, though no inscription can now be made out) separated by thin stone ‘treads’. On each face of the cross-head are five round bosses with knotwork decoration. The four arms bear bas-relief carvings: of the Evangelists on the forward face, and of stylised trees on the reverse. The encircling ring was originally inscribed with the opening words of the Sanctus - ‘Holy Holy Holy Lord God of Sabaoth’ – but the text is no longer legible.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.