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Wentworth Castle and Northern College for residential and non-residential adult education Virtual Tour - Sun Monument
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Sun Monument

The grounds and buildings of Wentworth Castle, the site of Northern College provide a tangible record of the people who have lived and visited there. Lady Mary's monument is a perfect example of this. Lady Mary was the daughter of the 5th Earl of Kingston and Mary Fielding (cousin of Henry Fielding, the author). She was a 'woman of her age', regarded by contemporaries as a colourful character and a renowned author, traveller, eccentric and socialite. She was known, amongst other things as a matchmaker and the person who introduced the Prime Minister, Robert Walpole to Molly Skerrett who later became his wife. However, it should be noted, that in keeping with her character that when Lady Mary first engineered this introduction the Prime Minister was already married.

It is difficult to gain a picture in terms of what Lady Mary looked like. We do know that at some point she had been a great beauty until she developed small pox which led to some disfigurement. However, ironically this became a defining moment because it was whilst she was living in Turkey that she discovered that the Turks possessed a cure for small pox. Recognising the pain caused by this disease she brought the remedy back on her return to England and informed the Queen of the discovery. As a consequence of this action it was decreed that the royal children and future heirs to the throne should be inoculated against the disease. It is telling of the time and the position of women in society that she the medical profession were reluctant to acknowledge her work and to this day it is the name of Dr Edward Jenner who is credited with the discovery of the cure.

In 1739 she decided to elope to Italy with her lover Francesco Algarotti. Unfortunately love did not steer a smooth course as he changed his mind and did not meet her as arranged. However, undaunted by this she found a new lover the young count Ugo Plazzi whom she lived with in Italy with a further ten years.

By coincidence it was while she was in Italy that she met William Wentworth whilst he was on his 'Grand Tour of Europe'. It is a tribute to Lady Mary's character and the impression she had made on the Wentworth family that William erected a monument in 1747 in the grounds of the castle in her name. The monument is a simple reminder of the life of a remarkable woman of that century. It is highly probable that Lady Mary saw the monument when she returned to England for a short stay. Sadly she died of cancer in 1762.

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