The Triumphal Arch
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The Triumphal Arch at the head of the driveway to Parlington. Click to view a Video of the 3D Model [QuickTime, Mac OSX or Win XP]
The monument is situated to the north of the site of the hall at the end of a delightful beech lined avenue. Sir Thomas Gascoigne had the Arch erected around the late eighteenth century. It is believed locally that the arch was to be the entrance to a new house.
The archives in Leeds have a document attributed to Sir Thomas Gascoigne giving his original statement for the arch, as follows, "To that virtue which for a series of years resisted oppression and by a glorious race rescued its country and millions from slavery", this was too lengthy for the available space and was edited to the inscription you see today.
The conceptual architectural drawings for the house and the arch are in the Leeds Archive and well worth a visit.
The inscription on the Arch reads
Liberty in N.America Triumphant MDCCLXXXIII and is repeated on both evelations.
A number of factors should be considered about the location of the new house and the Triumphal Arch.
Sir Thomas Gascoigne was married on 4th November 1784 to Mary, daughter of James Shuttleworth, sadly within two years, on the 1st February 1786 his wife died aged only 34, a month after the birth of their only son Thomas Charles (Tom).
That Sir Thomas was considering a new house is evidenced by the numerous proposal drawings in the West Yorkshire Archives, however his position was dramatically changed following the untimely death of his wife.
From information found in a book by the Rev. F.S Colman Rector of Barwick in Elmet, published by the Thoresby Society in 1908, the following:
There is a tradition that the stone of which the arch was built was brought there for the purpose of building a new house on the hill above the old hall and Sir Thomas having relinquished his idea utilized the materials in erecting what he considered a worthy memorial.
It seems reasonable to believe that the Triumphal Arch is a statement of how Sir Thomas felt, given his strong feelings and approval of the American cause in the War of Independance and following the death of his wife. In his changed circumstances the idea of building a grand house, would seem in the authors opinion, unlikely.
The Arch is said to be a copy of the Arch Titus in Rome, a picture of which is shown below
If Sir Thomas had completed the new house, it follows would have been situated on the most prominent site on the estate and this can only be where the Triumphal Arch now sits! In the eighteenth century country houses were built overlooking their surrounding estates. No consideration was afforded to the values applied to the earlier builders at Parlington who chose to construct their building in the position affording maximum shelter.
A recent visit to Rome gives me some confidence that if the arch was based on an ancient monument it looks more likely that the arch below commemorating Constantine, adjacent to the Colosseum in Rome, although much more elaborate, seems to be a better fit, than the Titus Arch.
Originally the roadway passed through the Arch and then turned south towards the Hall. In more recent years to avoid damge to the structure the roadway has been diverted to pass in front of the monument, and then picks up the old road some distance in to the woodland.
The above picture is taken from a collection of images recently contributed by a Mr Don Cathie, the most significant find since uncovering the Cellar!! A full section dedicated to this collection of images will be added in the near future. This picture shows the arch with the roadway running through the centre, if you look closely you can see a person sitting on the masonry on the right! This new collection of pictures are all "stereoscope" images an invention by the British Scientist Sir Charles Wheatstone a detailed account is available here on Wikipedia. The Dates are currently being assessed, but are in the range of the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
The photograph is taken from the west side of the arch looking in the direction of Aberford. The oval panels above each of the secondary archways can be seen to be flat stonework, there is no evidence of any sculpturing forming a scene such as occur on the Constantine Arch. Therefore I believe that any fancy embelishments that have been the subject of many questions about the arch can be clearly dismissed. At the time of this picture vary few people would have been allowed in this area, so it is unlikely to have suffered any of the vandalism that has occured in more recent times.
The house that was being planned is referred to in the book by Rev Colman, as
Atkinson's Plan and this provides a date of 1778, when a letter from a friend in York wrote with these details to Sir Thomas who was on his grand tour in Rome. Additionally, the writer stated
I returned yesterday from Parlington, I saw there pyrmaids of very fine stone which I understand were designed to build a house for Sir Thomas Gascoigne's son.
The drive with the Triumphal Arch in the distance, is today the main access to the Parlington Estate, it enters the land off Cattle Lane, the Aberford to Barwick in Elmet road, directly opposite
Pike Lodge the former Estates Office.
The former estate office on Cattle Lane. There is a fine example of the Gascoigne Crest above the door, although artistic licence prevailed and the pike head is much more realistic than that found on the earlier coat of arms, which features on this site.
Parlington Hall in the late Nineteenth century. Taken from a photograph provided
by the Garforth Historical Society.