Coke Monument

Nominated by: Harvey Whittam

Images courtesy of Stoke Park Ltd.

The Coke Monument is within the beautiful grounds of Stoke Park, Stoke Poges.  It was built to remember Sir Edward Coke, one of the world’s greatest jurists, and the first Lord Chief Justice in England.  Sir Edward lived in the Manor House in Stoke Poges and died there as a very old man.  Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) was responsible for The Petition for Rights drawn up in 1628 to curb the power of Charles I.  He defended the common law against the royal prerogative.  Earlier in his career he prosecuted the Gun Powder plotters and Sir Walter Raleigh.  Yet probably influencing much law around the world today is his writing of the ‘Institutes’.  These form part of the foundation and development of English law and have gone on to profoundly influence the U.S. constitution, especially the 3rd and 4th amendments.

The monument was built in 1800.  The overall design was by James Wyatt for John Penn, the owner of Stoke Park.  It stands 58 feet high, formed of a sandstone Doric column with a fine life size statue of Sir Edward. The statue was sculpted by Charles Rossi RA.  He was appointed sculptor-in-ordinary to George IV and to William IV.  The material used for the statue is Coade stone, an artificial stone which is extremely hard and weather resistant and had been perfected by Eleanor Coade in London in the 1700s.

John Penn was the grandson of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.  He was a wealthy single man who had lots of money and had an annuity of £4,000 per annum awarded by Parliament.  He wished to remember those persons who had been so closely connected with Stoke Poges and the nation.

James Wyatt was an English architect chiefly remembered for his romantic country houses and a rival of Robert Adam.  He achieved instant success at an early age with his design for the domed ‘Pantheon’ on Oxford Street.  He went on to design numerous town and country houses, churches and garden building and remodelling Stoke Park mansion house which now forms the main building of the luxurious 5-star hotel.

When the monument was erected it was positioned in fine parkland which had recently been landscaped by Humphry Repton.  Careful consideration had been given to the location to afford fine vistas from the Mansion house and the old Manor House.  The statue is deliberately facing east to look across to the London Law Courts.  Subsequently in the early 20th century, the renowned golf architect, Harry Colt designed the now famous golf course and ensured the Monument remained a major landmark.

The monument is not only significant for whom it represents, but also the people involved in the creation of it: John Penn, James Wyatt, Charles Rossi and Eleanor Coade.  There is an important relationship of it to the landscape which is unique: from a landscape originally designed by ‘Capability’ Brown, then remodelled by Humphry Repton and in recent times by Harry Colt.

Time moves on, yet this stands solid in great condition.  It reminds me of democracy and the shaping of laws, allowing for freedom to so many around the world.

Coke Monument was nominated by Harvey Whittam, Chairman of the Stoke Poges Society.