Keppel's Column – Rotherham, England - Atlas Obscura

Keppel's Column

An oddly shaped tower built to mark the acquittal of Admiral Keppel in a controversial 1770s case.  


Not all great friendships have a monument dedicated to them, but the kinship between Admiral Augustus Keppel and Charles Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, scaled new heights in 1778 when the latter commissioned a statue to celebrate the admiral’s acquittal in a court-martial case. 

The triumphal pillar, dubbed Keppel’s Column, is located outside the village of Scholes in Southern Yorkshire, England, where it stands tall at 115 feet. 

Admiral Keppel was Navy officer and a close friend of the Marquess and a fellow Whig. Keppel was court-martialed following a naval defeat to the French at the Battle of Ushant in 1777. The court-martial was said to be politically motivated due to an ongoing dispute between himself and Sir Hugh Palliser, a member of the Admiralty Board and a member of parliament.

The Marquess had already planned to build a monument to mark the southern boundary of his park, but following Keppel’s acquittal he had the design modified to create a triumphal tower. This was as much a political statement as a celebration since he saw Keppel’s acquittal as a defeat for the government. Following changes in political fortunes, Admiral Keppel eventually became First Lord of the Admiralty.

Unfortunately, the structure wasn’t completed as designed, and what was built is an oddly proportioned tower which bulges slightly about three-quarters of the way up.

The tower has a spiral staircase within it and was open to the public until the 1960s. Because of its current dangerous condition, it is kept locked by the current owners, Rotherham Borough Council. They have added a sort of iron corset to just below the midpoint of the tower to prevent the cracks, which can be clearly seen when close to the tower, from spreading further.

It’s not known if there are any plans to reopen the structure, but you can view the tower at close quarters from a public footpath nearby.

Know Before You Go

You can park on the road at Admiral's Crest but please be thoughtful of the residents. By bus from Rotherham centre catch the 66 from just outside Rotherham Central Station.

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April 26, 2017

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