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An Extraordinary Order: The Little Temple at Temple Newsam

Article Index

  1. An Extraordinary Order: The Little Temple at Temple Newsam
  2. Background
  3. Description
  4. Commentary: Context
  5. Commentary: Precedents from Architectural History
  6. Commentary: Purity of Style
  7. Commentary: Non-Architectural Models
  8. Designer: Possible Designers
  9. Designer: Other Hypotheses
  10. Designer: The Model Used
  11. Condition
  12. Conclusions
  13. Appendix 1
  14. Appendix 2
  15. References
  16. Illustrations
  17. All Pages

Other Hypotheses

Other designers were considered but may be discounted –

(e) John Carr of York, (1723-1807) 43 in 1766, the fashionable architect who was working contemporaneously on the main house for Viscount Irwin in 1762-68 while Brown reformed the Park, and who produced a drawing for a Keeper’s Lodge (possibly the East Lodges, demolished in the 1940s). A sketch for the Little Temple might conceivably have also been offered as a “taster”, but Carr’s work is normally the most conservative and accurate Classical and he does not play games; and he would also have been trespassing on another’s commission unless specifically invited by Lord Irwin. No mention of the Little Temple has been traced so far in his papers.

(f) Robert Adam (1728-1792), the charming and even more fashionable architect, 44 in 1772, when he drew proposals for alteration and rebuilding of the South wing at Temple Newsam for Viscount Irwin and his wife Frances. Adam had published his book and spectacular drawings of the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s ruined palace at Spalatro in 1764 but, while he was not averse to supplanting another architect, he may have considered it beneath his dignity to do a small and apparently architecturally illiterate garden folly, even if as a “taster” for a wealthy potential client.

(g) James Wyatt (1746-1813), the most wayward by some distance of the extensive Wyatt dynasty of architects/surveyors/builders, who in 1777 was paid to build a new staircase in the main house at Temple Newsam. That itself was replaced in 1894, although the wrought iron balustrade designed by Wyatt survives in the house, re-used on the “Stone Staircase”, but the botanical motifs there bear little or no resemblance to the Little Temple’s columns. James Wyatt was a vivid character, trained in Italy and back in England from 1768, who made his reputation in 1772 with The Pantheon in London (a painting of which by William Hodges and James Pars was later acquired and hangs now at Temple Newsam.) His polished manners won him many commissions, but then his dilatory and negligent administration frequently resulted in trouble. He was an accomplished draughtsman, but “had no principles in his art”. Although well versed in Classical architecture, he had also acquired better knowledge of authentic mediaeval prototypes than most of his rivals, and as early as 1771/72 executed partly Gothic remodelling at Beaudesert (Staffs) for the Earl of Uxbridge. Much later he would be the architect for William Beckford’s vast folly mansion of Fonthill (built 1796-1812, partial collapse 1825) – ecclesiastical Gothic applied to secular Picturesque purposes. But, in seeking to “improve” Gothic by removing those accidental excrescences so characteristic of ancient buildings, he became vilified as “Wyatt the Destroyer” for his cavalier alterations to many fine old cathedrals and churches. The Little Temple and its order is architecturally wilful enough to be by James Wyatt, but not likely if it was put up before 1776.

(h) James Paine (1716-1789), 50 in 1766, a Palladian but one who would stretch into other styles. He started his architectural career in the North of England, at Nostell Priory in the 1740s, at Doncaster and Wakefield in 1745, Stockeld Park and Kedleston in 1758/60, Bramham Park in 1760, and provided a (Vitruvian) Egyptian interior for Worksop Manor in 1763. But from 1746 Paine was increasingly successful, working across England and resident in London, and no evidence has been found of a connection to Temple Newsam. Paine was also disparaging about Robert Wood’s works on Palmyra and Baalbec as “curious rather than useful”, and on Stuart and Revett’s on Athens as “despicable ruins”.

(j) William Johnson (? -1795), an architect in Leeds and designer of the Third White Cloth Hall in 1776. After schemes for alterations to the main house by R Adam, J Carr, LC Brown (and others?) had been drawn and considered and rejected, Johnson eventually carried out in 1792-96 a re-casing of the south wing of Temple Newsam House for Frances, after 1778 a widow. Johnson was local of course, and therefore probably cheaper and would do what he was told….

Four others had eliminated themselves –

(k) William Etty of York, who worked with Hawksmoor at Castle Howard and had done both alterations to the main house and earlier garden enhancements at Temple Newsam in 1710-15; he had been the architect in Leeds for the Moot Hall 1710 and Holy Trinity Church 1722-27, but had died in 1734.

(l) William Kent himself, a pioneer of picturesque gardening in the 1730s at Chiswick for Lord Burlington and at Rousham for General Dormer, and quite fanciful enough to play such stylistic games, but who had died in 1748. Kent had on occasion selected Gothic features which appealed to him as characteristic and decorative and then arranged them conformably to his classically trained taste, but in John Harris’ words “associational Gothic, not revivalistic”. In 1735 Kent had built Merlin’s Cave in Richmond Old Park, Surrey, for the learned and sophisticated Queen Caroline – a combination of a Palladian symmetrical form with a thatched roof, a Gothic ogee doorway, and “tree trunk” columns internally. Such knowing architectural transgression stirred criticism, abuse, satire, lampoons, and (even) praise. Brown had been Kent’s assistant in some of the magnificent garden works for Lord Cobham at Stowe in the 1740s. But in 1770, Brown, re-landscaping the Old Park at Richmond, would demolish Merlin’s Cave, to further satirical blame from the Reverend William Mason in his “Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers, Knight”:  

To Richmond come; for see, untutor'd Brown
Destroys those wonders which were once their own;
Lo! From his melon-ground the peasant slave
Has rudely rush'd, and levelled Merlin's Cave;
Knocked down the waxen wizard, seized his wand,
Transform'd to lawn what late was fairy-land,
And marr'd, with impious hand each sweet design
Of Stephen Duck and good Queen Caroline.

So maybe Brown by then was less respectful of his mentor’s ideas and creations, and indeed most of his park layouts do simplify Kent, losing much of the older man’s subtle variation and layering as well as his erudite embellishments taken from the antique.

(m) James Gibbs, draughtsman and clerk-of-works for Lord Burlington in the 1730s, assistant to Nicholas Hawksmoor at Castle Howard in 1737, and who had met the young Brown at Wallington. As an architect Garrett had done fine work at Temple Newsam in 1738-45, but he had died in 1753.

(n) James Gibbs, who had designed many ornamental and erudite garden buildings for Lord Cobham at Stowe, including the Gothic Temple of 1741-4 dedicated “To the Liberty of our Ancestors”; as Clerk of Works Brown would have been involved in their construction, and he was impressed by Gibbs’ professionalism. But Gibbs was an outsider, as a Catholic Jacobite Scot who had trained in Italy with Carlo Fontana (singled out with Bernini for derision as “affected and licentious” by Colen Campbell in “Vitruvius Britannicus” in 1715). The Jacobite Earl of Mar, an early client and sponsor of Gibbs, had been permanently exiled for his leading part in the 1715 rebellion. Gibbs was excluded from Burlington’s coterie of artists and designers aiming to create a new British architecture based mostly on their simplified understanding of Palladio’s buildings and writings from two centuries earlier. Undaunted, Gibbs published his very successful “Book of Architecture” in 1728, a pattern book for architects and clients which he introduced as “such a work as would be of use to such Gentlemen as might be concerned in Building, especially in the remote parts of the Country, where little or no assistance for designs can be procured”.  Architecturally, Gibbs took forward many of Wren’s ideas, and by his manifest talent made a successful career, building for the Church, the Universities, and country houses for wealthy Tories. Although Brown may have learnt much from Gibbs at Stowe and there are parallels in the siting and detail between the Gothic Temple there and the Little Temple, the older man had died in 1754 and is not known to have worked at Temple Newsam.

One can surely also discount “unconsciously naïve or ignorant” combinations by a local  mason/builder, or frugal re-use of architectural fragments salvaged from elsewhere, as Charles Ingram and Capability Brown would have been insulted by that, and it would only have invited ridicule from their circles of learned friends and from respectable visitors viewing the park. While not intellectual creatives with the talent and sophistication of a Hawksmoor or Kent, Charles and Frances were clearly educated and well travelled and able to appreciate the subtleties of design and precedent. Charles Ingram’s uncle Henry, the 7th Viscount and Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding, who died in 1761, was a subscriber to James Gibbs 1728 “Book of Architecture”, owned other books on the art by Pozzo and Perrault (and probably editions of Vitruvius, Isaac Ware and Andrea Palladio), and had been an initial subscriber to Lord Burlington’s Assembly Rooms in York in 1732. In 1746 he had Daniel Garrett magnificently remodel the interior of the Picture Gallery at Temple Newsam. Henry’s scheme “was to record his ancestors’ political loyalty to the English Crown, and to create a forest of mythology, inhabited by gods of the pagan world, in which his family (represented by the portraits of the living and the dead) were also to be found.” One of the overmantel paintings there, by Antonio Joli and known as “The Pool of Bathsheba”, is an architectural fantasy with a rather Venetian combination of classic Ionic corbels side by side with gothic trefoil and quatrefoil windows. The Georgian Library of 1740-43, also by Daniel Garrett for Henry Ingram and using an elegant and most correct Corinthian Order, is an exquisite retreat for an educated gentleman or woman, and the Little Temple was later positioned in the prospect from its great bay window. [2]

Politically, the Ingrams’ forbears in the 1640/50s Civil War between Parliament and King had been in both camps, and it is thought that in 1664 Charles II created Henry Ingram the 1st Viscount at the age of just 23 as reward for his support at a critical time. In 1688 the Glorious Revolution (a Protestant coup d’état) had evicted King James II in favour of William and Mary, and in 1714 on the death of Queen Anne the Whig aristocracy and parliament had invited the Elector of Hanover Georg Ludwig (only 52nd in line to the throne, but safely Protestant) to become King of Great Britain and Ireland. Many still remained loyal to the Stuarts as well as to the Old Religion, though the Old Pretender’s invasion failed in 1715. Throughout these most uncertain times to have known Jacobite sympathies could incur loss of employment, of office, of estates, or even exile or execution.

But by the 1760s the Jacobite threat was fading in England after the comprehensive defeat of the 1745 rebellion, and  there is no indication that the Ingrams now were other than loyal to the Hanoverian Crown. Charles Ingram was MP for Horsham and from 1757 a Groom of the Bedchamber to the young Prince of Wales (who succeeded his grandfather as George III in 1760). Charles was thus one of the inner circle of trusted courtiers for those years, but never a member of the administrations of Pitt the Elder or Lord Bute. Indeed, his sympathies sound more Tory than Whig. Britain and France were rival powers, and John Dixon Hunt quotes Stephen Switzer in his “Ichnographia Rustica” (1718, republished in 1742): “It is therefore England’s duty to surpass ‘France our great Competitor’ in garden arts as in arms”. France, the Catholic Jacobites and some Tories looked back to the glories of Imperial Rome, but England, the Protestant Hanoverians and most Whigs looked back to Republican Rome and the origins of democracy in Greece. One sought authority for an absolutist monarchy, the other for a limited monarchy balanced by a parliament. While there was British interest in the archaeological discoveries of Greek and Roman antiquities, the relationship with France was more conflicted. French may have been the shared language of the educated classes across Europe but, following the demise of Louis XIV in 1715, the manifest achievements of Grand Siècle France politically, culturally and aesthetically were being challenged during the reign of the indolent and frivolous Louis XV. The Seven Years War (1756-63) had resulted in sweeping gains for the British Empire at the expense of the French, both in India and in North America, and it is possible to see this as a time of great confidence in British culture, with the fine country houses and parks such as Temple Newsam but one local expression.

Charles (from 1763 the 9th Viscount) and Frances were clearly passionate collectors of real discrimination, and their art collection included paintings by Titian, Claude, Poussin, Watteau, Rubens and Rembrandt (sadly, since dispersed). Their home was one of the great houses in the north of England and, as Dorothy Stroud says, “in its heyday (ie the later 18th century) Temple Newsam was considered to be one of the great English landscapes”. Frances, as a widow, may have been more cautious in spending large sums on building projects, and even perhaps less scrupulous stylistically than Charles in her “Brownifications” – a metaphor she used both for creating gardens for the good life à la Claude, and also for the muddy mess Brown’s landscaping team made for three or more years. But the Little Temple appears to have been built well before the 9th Viscount’s death in 1778, and so it should be considered a joint enterprise.

What was built and paid for must have been considered and deliberate.