Built in 1756, this octagonal building and its 18th century pleasure-garden setting were restored in 1998/99 by the Garrick's Temple Partnership Project, funded in part by a Heritage Lottery grant and donations from a range of other organisations and individuals. The renowned actor-manager, David Garrick, built the Temple to celebrate the genius of William Shakespeare, commissioning the sculptor Roubiliac to provide a life-size statue of his hero to be placed inside.
The recent restoration reinstates the statue in replica and also houses a display which celebrates David Garrick's acting career and his private life in Hampton.
There are many great historic buildings in the area, you can see our list here.
Garrick built the temple on land adjoining a villa that he had bought in October 1754 to serve as a country retreat. The villa's riverside garden, a plot now known as Garrick's Lawn, was separated from the main property by the road from Kingston upon Thames to Staines. Garrick commissioned the building of an elaborate grotto-tunnel under the road, illuminated by 500 lanterns, to facilitate private access to the lawn from the house.
At some point in 1755 he decided to build a summer-house by the riverside which he intended to dedicate to his muse Shakespeare as a "temple" to the playwright. The temple's architect is unknown as his decision to build it is not recorded in his own papers. Robert Adam and Lancelot "Capability" Brown have both been suggested as possibilities.
An "Ionic Temple" of similar design stands in the gardens of Chiswick House a few miles away. This may well have been the inspiration for Garrick's Temple, as Garrick had spent his honeymoon at Chiswick House a few years earlier in the company of his wife's guardians the Burlingtons.
Garrick’s Lawn is the name of the garden on the Thames that surrounds Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare. Although there is no official record to prove it, it is widely believed that Lancelot “Capability” Brown advised David Garrick on how best to lay out the grounds of Garrick's Villa.
The gardens undoubtedly emulate the style for which Capability Brown became famous, and the Garricks certainly had the means and cultural understanding to adopt the newly fashionable landscape style as the main design option for their beautifully positioned gardens.
Today the gardens are managed by the Parks and Open Spaces Department of Richmond upon Thames Council and their contractors, together with a group of Temple Volunteers. The intention is to retain the 18th century characteristics of the original garden whilst making this much loved riverside park relevant, useful and valuable for the local and wider community.
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