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Monument to commemorate Duke of Wellington restored and reopened

Wellington Monument, the tallest three sided obelisk in the world, is open to the public once more after a complex restoration project.

Wellington_Monument_3_c_National_Trust_-_John_Miller_copy.jpgWellington Monument in Somerset, England © National Trust / John Miller

The repair of the 175 feet high Wellington Monument, which stands high above the Somerset countryside in south west England, presented a major challenge which cost £3.1m and took almost two years.

This imposing obelisk, built in the Blackdown Hills near the town of Wellington in Somerset, commemorates the first Duke of Wellington after his victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Arthur Wellesley, who became Duke of Wellington, was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th century Britain, serving twice as Prime Minister. When he became Duke, Wellesley took his name from the town in Somerset.

The Wellington Monument has had a complicated history from the outset, with funding shortfalls and associated structural problems. As early as 1890, the local press described it as ‘dilapidated’. The major restoration project by the National Trust means that the monument is possibly in better condition now than when it was first completed.

Wellington_Monument_1_c_National_Trust_-_John_Miller_copy.jpgWellington Monument © National Trust / John Miller

Since taking ownership of the monument in 1934, the National Trust has carried out maintenance and repairs, but the legacy of early building difficulties, the exposed location and the failure of previous repairs meant a major restoration project and fundraising was needed to secure its future.

Helen Sharp, the National Trust’s project manager said: “This has been a huge undertaking and to see it completed is a special day for us and the people of Wellington. A glance at the monument shows the extent of new stones which have had to be added – 1,508 in total, all of which had to be hand-tooled by qualified masons. The pyramidion – the triangular section at the top – had to be almost completely replaced with only the original capstone remaining.”

Wellington_Monument_8_CNational_Trust_-_Chris_Lacey_copy.jpgRestoration of Wellington Monument © National Trust / Chris Lacey

John Ette, Partnerships Team Leader at Historic England South West, added: “We are delighted that the Wellington Monument is now fully repaired and standing proud in the Somerset landscape. This is a significant achievement in view of the scale of the monument and conservation challenges it faced. We hope that this unique and special part of our national heritage can now be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Wellington Monument was originally funded through public subscription - some of the first donors included the Duke of Cambridge, the youngest son of King George III, and Field Marshal Prince Blücher, the Prussian General who came to Wellington’s assistance at the Battle of Waterloo.

Wellington_Monument_5_c_National_Trust_-_John_Miller_copy.jpgInside Wellington Monument © National Trust / John Miller

The foundation stone was laid in 1817 but, soon after, problems started when money began to run short. There were two major breaks in construction, the first of which left the monument unfinished at 121 feet high in around 1830. Structural damage was caused when it was struck by lightning twice, and an effort to repair and continue the build followed the Duke of Wellington’s death in 1852. Two years later it had reached 170 feet. At the start of the 1890s, it was again repaired and extended to its final height of 175 feet.

Janet Redler, Chief Executive of Janet Redler Travel & Tourism, said: “It is great news that this striking monument, which commemorates one of Britain’s best known 19th century soldiers and politicians, has been restored to its full glory. Visible for miles around, this highly recognisable landmark is an icon of the Somerset landscape and is set to remain so for many more years to come.”

If you or your group would like to enjoy a tailor-made heritage tour of the United Kingdom, perhaps following in the footsteps of the Duke of Wellington, or visiting some of the country's many other historical monuments, please do contact our friendly team today.

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