Restoration Intern Pure and Beautiful

28 July 2015

“Pure and beautiful and venerable.”

-Horace Walpole on the Gothic Temple

The Gothic Temple, is unusual for Stowe having being built in the Gothic style, and is a striking feature of Hawkwell Field. This area was added in 1730 by Lord Cobham, to create the ‘Path of Liberty’ which occupies the north-east corner of the garden. The walk marches through the Grecian Valley in celebration of British liberty, in contrast to Roman tyranny, which Cobham revered. The Gothic Temple, with its ambitious triangular plan and sharp silhouette upon the skyline, is inscribed with the words ‘I thank God that I am not a Roman’; not Cobham’s most subtle political message but it’s certainly clear.

But it is the surrounding field that this temple owes much of its grand demeanour to. The buildings erected along the path of liberty were all designed by Gibbs and are generally larger and more spaciously arranged. Their setting is more informal and pastoral: The sheep that would have been allowed to roam free are still there today (generations/breeds aside). And so the Gothic Temple attains an air of relaxed majesty, amongst the rolling English hills and natural habitats.

After its stately life, it was used by the school as the CCF’s armoury until 1969. In 1970 Stowe School gave The Landmark Trust a long term lease and the Gothic Temple can now be rented out as a holiday ‘cottage’!

To reach Hawkwell Field, the Palladian Bridge was built so that guests could enjoy a circular carriage drive around its perimeter. Nowadays, there is more suitable access for our larger vehicles, for the Palladian Bridge has not had the same good fortune as its neighbour. The stonework is crumbling and is in dire need of some tender loving care. It’s about time it was treated with equal respect!