Restoration Intern Replenishing Virtue

29 August 2015

Cobham's Path of Virtue winds through the Elysian Fields and acknowledges his love of Greek and Saxon freedoms whilst evoking his hatred of Roman and modern-day tyranny.
The Temple of Ancient Virtue houses four noble Greeks who were pre-eminent in their own field: the general, Epaminondas; the legislator, Lycurgus; the poet, Homer; and the philosopher, Socrates.
The Temple of Ancient Virtue honours a member of the Temple family, Captain Thomas Grenville, who died in action on a ship under his command, the Defiance, in action with a French frigate on 3 May 1747.
The design itself was completed in 1737 by William Kent who was inspired by the ancient Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. The circular temple form was considered particularly solemn and inspired imitations in places as far flung as Washington DC where Jefferson Monument was built.
In a harsh attack on the Walpole government, a Temple of Modern Virtue was erected next to the Temple of Ancient Virtue.  However, it was designed as a ruin in a striking depiction of degraded contemporary politics. Situated just to the south of Ancient Virtue, the comparison is unavoidable. Originally ruinous, the pile of rocks in its place is now unrecognisable and the National Trust has plans to recreate Walpole- decapitated and dilapidated- according to the original design.
If the National Trust can replenish Ancient Virtue from its forlorn and overgrown state, modern-day tyranny should also be restored (and I refer to its monument, the corresponding reality having not changed so much, some would say!).