Wellington Monument, its history and its future, is naturally a point of reference for many residents of the town – but Derek Johnson can claim a family attachment dating back several generations. His great-grandfather, James Richards, was Keeper of the Keys of the Monument for 50 years and his great-grandmother, Sarah Harris, served cream teas and sold candles to visitors to the Monument from their home at Monument Farm.
James Richards and his wife had 13 children, all of whom were born at the farm. One of their daughters was Derek Johnson’s grandmother from whom he inherited fragments of family history and, importantly, photographs of both the Richards’ family and their descendants, some of them taken at the Monument and showing the cannon which still stands on the site.
James Richards died in 1943 at the age of 91. Monument Farm was sold in the 1930’s and now the only part of the original farm building still visible is a wall of the house, although the nearby Woodman’s Cottage still stands.
Now Derek Johnson is putting together a history of his family which will include its association with the Monument. He intends to publish a book from his research and aims to complete it in time for a gathering of his relatives in August. He said, “I’ve got about 60 relatives who have come back to me and we’ll have a one-day reunion for as many as I can get to come. Many of them have said they don’t know who their cousins are.”
And the future of the Monument? Derek said, “We were hoping for Lottery funding but that didn’t happen. The National Trust is still trying to get funds and, if they did, they might reopen it, put a viewing platform there for disabled people and make a bigger and better car park. I think it would be wonderful – and I feel part of it because of the family connection.”