On 24 June 1725, Elizabeth married Joseph Gascoigne who later took the surname of Nightingale. On the 17th of August 1731, only six years after her marriage, Elizabeth died of a miscarriage caused by the shock of a violent flash of lightning. The child, Elizabeth, survived and later married Wilmot Vaughan, 1st Earl of Lisburne.
This monument was erected thirty one years after Elizabeth's death and gives an incorrect date. The inscription reads:
'Here rest the ashes of Joseph Gasgoigne Nightingale of Mamhead in the county of Devon Esqr., who died July the 20th 1752 aged 56. And of Lady Elizabeth his wife, daughter and coheir of Washington Earl Ferrers; who died August the 17th 1734 aged 27. Their only son Washington Gascoigne Nightingale Esqr. deceas’d, in memory of their virtues, did by his last will order this monument to be erected”.
The art work was created by sculptor Louis Francois Roubiliac and depicts death emerging from his prison to aim his deadly dart at the dying figure of Elizabeth above. She is held up by her husband who, in horror, tries to ward off the stroke of death.
The monument can be found just off the north transept of Westminster Abbey. The idea for this work has been attributed to Elizabeth’s brother in law who had a dream of a skeleton appearing at the foot of his bed, which proceeded to creep up under the bedclothes between him and wife.
Quite a frightening piece isn't it?
It certainly frightened a robber who broke into the Church, he was so horrified at seeing the figure of death in the moonlight that he dropped his crowbar and fled in terror. The crowbar was displayed for a while along side the monument but now has disappeared along with the deaths lower jaw and his spear which has since been replaced with a wooden replica.