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Group of Five Altars approximately 50m south of Ladies Lake

A Grade II* Listed Building in Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0029 / 52°0'10"N

Longitude: -0.4091 / 0°24'32"W

OS Eastings: 509306

OS Northings: 235022

OS Grid: TL093350

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.KC0

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.VXLG

Entry Name: Group of Five Altars approximately 50m south of Ladies Lake

Listing Date: 10 January 1985

Last Amended: 18 May 2012

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1311237

English Heritage Legacy ID: 37764

Location: Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Silsoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Silsoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Summary

A group of five ancient Greek altars, from the late Hellenistic period (late C2-C1 BC).

Description

MATERIALS: the altars are carved from white marble.

DESCRIPTION: four of the altars are set around the edge of a circular lawn amidst trees, with the fifth altar set in the centre. They are cylindrical in form, approximately 1m in height, and have thin projecting cornices and simple marble caps to the top. The altars are set upon square, stone bases, and each is carved with four buchranea (Ox heads), with festoons of flowers hanging between them. The central altar bears the following Greek inscription:

'HAIL DIOGENES SON OF ENON, HONEST CITIZEN OF ASKALON'.

Askalon is near Gaza.

History

Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. After Jemima, Marchioness de Grey died in 1797, the estate passed to her daughter Amabel and with it Wrest entered a period of consolidation, in part enforced by the severe financial pressures of the Napoleonic wars. The situation had eased by 1816 when Amabel was created Countess de Grey in her own right. The group of five antique Greek altars were purchased by Amabel in 1817 from T Beauclere Esq of Muswell Hill and placed in their present location. It is not known where Beauclere got the altars from. The altars are from the late Hellenistic period and date from the late C2 - C1BC. They were listed as five separate items in January 1985.

Reasons for Listing

The group of five Greek altars approximately 50m south of Ladies Lake, Wrest Park is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Archaeological interest: dating from the late C2 to C1BC, the Greek altars have high intrinsic interest
* Artistic interest: the altars are notable examples of early artistic and decorative forms, which display a high level of craftsmanship through their elaborately carved symbolism;
* Historic interest: the altars have historic interest because they were purchased as antiquities by Amabel Countess de Grey in 1817 to add to the estate's collection.
* Group composition: the altars have been in situ, in their present setting, since 1817.
* Group Value: the altars make a positive contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden.

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