The Horse Story...

Many people who live locally to Bristol and especially in the vicinity of Stoke Park tell a legend of how a lady once fell from a horse and died whilst riding within the grounds. Many people believe the Obilisk marks the spot where the horse stumbled. John Pimm explains why this legend is simply not true...




Stoke House was built in 1563 by Sir Richard Berkley of Stoke Gifford, seat of John Berkley. Although the building is of a castle like appearance the only military involvement it embraced was during August and September 1645 when Thomas Fairfax used the building as his headquarters when he and Oliver Cromwell along with others took Bristol back from the royalist The building was changed in the seventeen hundreds by Norbourne Berkley who employed the services of Thomas Wright the famous landscape gardener who planned the walks, buildings, etc. A story long associated with the Dower House and Duchess Park is that of a lady who fell from her horse and was ,killed. After more that twenty years of research no record can be found to substantiate this. A possible origin of the story goes back to a lady Elizabeth Somerset who was born
11 0 clock on the 12th, of March 1743 in London. Her mother was Elizabeth Berkley (sister of Norborne Berkley), her father was Charles Noel Somerset, 4th Duke of Beaufort. We know a fair amount about her from family records held in the archives at Badminton House, Gloucester. Her letters to Norborne Berkley and his letters to her leads one to believe that she was his favourite niece. Returning to the archives we know from her mother's diary that she died of consumption (tuberculosis) on the 7th of May 1760 at Stoke House at the age of seventeen and is buried in the family vault at Badminton. An obilisk was built in her memory in 1762. There are also many different articles in newspapers and various magazines that it was Elizabeth Berkley who fell from her horse and was killed in the grounds of Stoke Park. Again returning to the family records in the Badminton archives we know that Elizabeth Berkley left Stoke House on the l2th of March 1799, arrived in London on the 13th of March 1799 and died at her daughter's on the 8th of April the same year. We have records of how she was to be laid out, and of her funeral cortege, which left London and came down through Chippenham to the family vault at Badminton. We can find no record to back up the horse story.

John Pimm


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Last updated: 01/31/12.