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The Shugborough Inscription

The Shugborough Inscription

The Shugborough Inscription

History is full of obscure strings of text that serve as tantalizing puzzles for code breakers. From the Voynich manuscript to the cryptic codes by the Zodiac Killer, people have presented riddles hidden in what seem to be gibberish.

A monument, known as the Shugborough Inscription, attached to a large manor house in England displays a riddle that has yet to be solved.

On the grounds of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire is a monument depicting a replica of Nicolas Poussin’s masterpiece “The Shepherds of Arcadia.”

Below that replica is a series of letters that appear to be without meaning:


Shugborough Hall in 1829.

Shugborough Hall in 1829.

Nobody knows what this means, and history does not help. The monument itself was built in the mid-18th century, although some claim that the mysterious code was a later addition, as it was not mentioned in documents until the 19th century.

Over time, there have been various “solutions” to the seemingly random letters. Here are a selection:

  • Admiral George Anson, famous for his circumnavigation of the globe, possibly encrypted an acrostic of a brief poem in Latin to the memory of his late wife. This verse translates into English as: “Best of wives, best of sisters, a most devoted widower dedicates to your virtues.”
  • Another attempt to solve the riddle posits that the letters are acrostics in Latin for particular biblical verses.
  • Others have suggested that the letters represent initials of noteworthy residents of Shugborough Hall and its environs.
  • A standard of many mysteries, it has been suggested that the letters, once decoded, will tell the location of the Holy Grail.
  • Someone has speculated that the code is actually in the Norwegian language, and that attempts to use Latin or English to crack the code are futile.
  • And there have been many that believe that the inscription does not represent letters at all, but is actually a string of numbers.

All those who have failed to solve the puzzle once and for all are in good company. Both Dickens and Darwin attempted to solve the riddle and failed, leaving the mysterious inscription for later generations to unravel.

“Shugborough inscription” Wikipedia, pulled 9/11/13
“Shugborough inscription” Mother Nature Network website, pulled 9/11/13

About Doug MacGowan

Doug MacGowan lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife, a dog, and far too many cats. He has published three books on the topic of historic true crime. In his free time he enjoys reading.

One comment

  1. The inscription on the Shepherds Monument is not difficult to decipher.
    O . U . O . S . V . A . V . V
    D M
    The two lower letters refer to Dagobert Merovingian; the upper line of letters broadly translated as: -
    " Observateur Utiliser Objecter Shugborough Voir Aussi Visa Versa ".
    Or, Observer Use the Object at Shugborough to See or Understand Also Vice Versa".
    The Shepherds Monument is therefore best viewed as the reverse of a transparency. The Chinese House being another example of ‘Vice Versa’. The Chinese House is located on the west side of the group of monuments when theoretically it should be where the Doric Temple stands … until that is until one understands why Thomas Anson placed it there.
    On the Monument, the shepherd's thumb of his left hand is immediately after the 'R' in Arcadia – alphabetically followed by the ‘S’, his index finger is planted on the 'N' in the second word 'IN'. The word 'Ego' is dropped from the end of 'Et In Arcadia Ego' to leave ‘Et IN ARCADIA’. The thumb ‘picks up’ the ‘S’ and the finger overwrites the ‘N’, thus reading ‘ET IS ARCADIA’ – or, ‘Also in Arcadia’.
    All the monuments are Templar based and tell an intriguing story… it is the same in the ‘danse macabre’ figures in the Rosslyn Lady Chapel and the effigies of Knights in Temple Church London.
    Geoffrey Morgan

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