Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
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THE SCLATER BACON MEMORIAL IN LINTON CHURCH

On the floor of the South Aisle, just to the right of the pulpit, is a small black slab with the following inscription: “Here under are interred the Remains of Elizabeth Bacon and Peter Standly Esq”.

Their impressive memorial stands a few feet away, attached to the outer wall of the Church. The monument was originally positioned on the south side of the Chancel and completely blocked the southern Arch.

In his plans for the Restoration of the Church in 1870, the Reverend Wilkinson planned to move the marble monument to the east end of the South Aisle in order to allow easier access to the Chancel. The plans of the period show that nothing actually happened and we must infer that the transfer took place sometime later around 1879, when the Chancel was refurbished during the ministry of Reverend Hall. It was at this time that the south entrance door to the Chancel was opened up.

Why was this elaborate memorial placed in the Church? It seems very strange that Peter Standl(e)y of Paxton Place in Huntingdonshire should leave £1,000 for the construction of such a grand structure. It is even more puzzling when one learns from the learned antiquarian William Cole that Standly was, “a cripple, deformed in mind and body…he was low, ill bred, and vulgar in his manner.”

The employment of Joseph Wilton, the principal sculptor of busts and architectural decorations of the late eighteenth century, is another surprise.

Wilton was a close friend and associate of Joshua Reynolds and had sculptured the memorial to General James Wolfe in Westminster Abbey in 1772-3. The answers to all these questions are revealed when one studies the history of the Linton lords, the Sclaters and Sclater-Bacons of Catley Park.

In 1674, Sir Thomas Sclater purchased the Great and Little Linton estates of the Paris family for the princely sum of £7,793, and settled at Catley Park where he expanded the earlier house and also constructed elaborate fruit gardens, which were very fashionable in the Cambridge region at that time. Sir Thomas was a Fellow of Trinity College, a contemporary of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren and a major contributor to the financing of the Wren Library. Indeed, Grinling Gibbons carved his coat of arms which can be seen on the end of one of the library bookcases.

Sir Thomas died childless in 1684 and left his vast fortune to his great nephew ,the 19 year-old Trinity student Thomas Sclater. He qualified as a lawyer at Gray’s Inn and then took up residence at Catley Park. We have already come across “young Tom” at the Bull Inn where he supped with his friend Squire John Millicent.

In 1706 he purchased Linton House from the Lone trustees together with the Rectory lease of the Guildhall. Tom Sclater was a prominent Tory, a friend of Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford who resided at Wimpole Hall and John Hyde Cotton of Madingley Hall. They were all bitter enemies of Sir Robert Walpole. Sclater sat in the House of Commons as M.P. for Cambridge from 1722-1736 and is reputed to have left an estate worth £200,000 when he died in August 1736. By then, he had changed his name to Thomas Sclater-Bacon.

Tom Sclater was a successful lawyer and had become a close friend of a London merchant called Josiah Bacon, one of the richest men in the kingdom. Bacon died in 1703 and Sclater became the sole trustee of his vast fortune. The two surviving Bacon children, Josias and Elizabeth were minors, and since Josias would inherit almost everything Josiah Bacon had added an interesting clause to his Will.

Elizabeth was to receive a generous income from the age of 12 years until she was 21. On her marriage any husband would be given an income of £2,500 per year if he agreed to adopt the surname of Bacon. Elizabeth married Thomas Sclater of Catley Park in 1716 when she was 21 and he was 51 years of age!

As Thomas Sclater-Bacon he was now much richer, but even more wealth was to come. Elizabeth’s brother, Josias Bacon died in 1717 and she then inherited the whole of the Bacon fortune in her own right. Elizabeth died childless in 1726 and her fortune was left to her husband only “for the duration of his life”.

Elizabeth’s mother, Mary Bacon had received very little from her husband’s will in 1703 and had later re-married to a gentleman called George Standley. They produced three sons; George, John and Peter Standley, all step brothers to Elizabeth Sclater–Bacon. Elizabeth’s Will in 1724 stipulated that her fortune would pass to her step-brothers after Thomas Sclater-Bacon’s death (he died in 1736).

To leave an estate to step-brothers was fairly unusual, hence the explanation for Peter Standley’s gratitude. George died childless in 1737 and John, now a drunkard living with Peter at Paxton, was dead by 1761. Peter Standley was left as the sole Bacon heir, all thanks to the generosity of his step sister Elizabeth. His residence at Paxton Place was part of the Bacon legacy.

The Linton Church monument features a bust medallion of Peter on the obelisk. On the pedestal is an elegant marble urn, with the figure of Hope on one side sustained by an anchor. On the other side, a fine female figure of Faith with a wreath and olive branch, and a dog crouching at her feet. The inscription deliberately uses the name Bacon rather than that of Sclater-Bacon because only the Bacon fortune passed to Peter Standly.

The words inscribed read: “Sacred to the Memory of Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Bacon, late of Catley Park in this County, Esquire and her brother Peter Standly, late of Paxton Place in the County of Hunt. Esq. who by his last Will ordered this Monument to be erected that he might perpetuate his affection for a beloved Sister and his gratitude to his benefactress. She died December 16th 1726. He died January 29th 1780 and both were buried in the same grave near this place."

Why would the leading English sculptor carve the memorial, apart from monetary considerations? Well, Wilton and Reynolds were both close friends of the sculptor, John Bacon who died in 1799. The Bacon surname connection seems to provide the answer although, as yet, I cannot establish a direct Bacon family link.