Gray’s Monument

Nominated by: Shae Hullait

This is a really special place for many locals.  I love walking and jogging in the fields after a stressful day in the office, it’s so good for mental health.  The landscape is so special surrounded by fields, the St Giles Church, the memorial gardens and Stoke Park.

Thomas Gray was an acclaimed poet in the mid-18th century literary world and this is the landscape that inspired one the most, if not the most important poem in English literature.  He wrote the poem an ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ in 1751.  The poem is believed to reference Stoke Poges, a village with which Gray had a close association throughout his lif,e and in which he was known to be staying when he completed the verse in 1750.  You can really see why Thomas Gray was inspired by this landscape to write such a beautiful poem – here are some excerpts:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me

Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight,

And all the air a solemn stillness holds,

Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,

And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.

“One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,

Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;

Another came; nor yet beside the rill,

Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he”

Acclaim was instantaneous and overwhelming, but the “Elegy” has also stood the test of time and was, until quite recently, routinely learnt by school children.  In fact, this poem coined the phrase ‘far from the madding crowd’!  

As well as contemplating death and the afterlife, Gray also explored ideas about society and education; themes that helped ensure his “Elegy” remains popular and relevant to this day.

The monument was commissioned by John Penn to form part of the vista from his new mansion at Stoke Park.  Designed by James Watt and erected in 1799, it is surrounded by a ha-ha – a form of ditch – which also dates from the 18th century.  The monument is now owned by the National trust. 

We, the people of Buckinghamshire, are incredibly lucky to live in the most beautiful county in England, full of beautiful landscapes and incredible history.  It seems that few people in Buckinghamshire even know of this beautiful piece of history right on the doorstep.  With increasing pressure from Slough to expand their Northern boundaries, it’s important people know and appreciate and preserve this beautiful part of the world.

Gray’s Monument was nominated by Shae Hullait.