Finding evidence of a lost 18th-century garden temple

Finding evidence of a lost 18th-century garden temple

Feature

Temple of Bacchus

Site

Painshill Park, Surrey

Issue

The existence of the Temple of Bacchus and its location in Painshill Park were known but the building had disappeared by the 1980s. Details about its size, appearance and the materials used in its construction were needed before the feature's reconstruction could be planned.

Background

The Temple of Bacchus, reached by a steep path through woodland, stood on a high terrace of land above the river Mole. It had a portico at each end and was decorated with papier maché reliefs.

The north portico is known to have been removed in 1925 to replace a veranda at Painshill House.

Visual documentary evidence

The Temple of Bacchus, Painshill Park, Surrey, undated early 20th century photograph. Copyright: Painshill Park Trust. The Temple of Bacchus, Painshill Park, Surrey, undated early 20th century photograph. Copyright: Painshill Park Trust. The remains of the Temple were still standing in 1948, when it was photographed for a book, but by the 1980s the building had disappeared.

There are two drawings of the Temple of Bacchus from the 1770s, by Swedish painter Elias Martin and French architect and garden designer Francois-Joseph Belanger.

Archaeological evidence

In the early 1980s, archaeologists revealed brick foundations and established the temple's layout. They found evidence that the 25-foot square temple had had six free-standing columns and half columns along the walls made of wood and plaster. Plaster fragments of the ceiling were recovered and glass from sash windows was found at the back of the temple.

23. The replica statue of Bacchus at Painshill. Photograph by Andy Newbold, July 2008. Copyright Andy Newbold.The replica statue of Bacchus at Painshill in July 2008. Photograph copyright: Andy Newbold. The re-creation of the Temple of Bacchus is a priority in the next phase of the garden's restoration. It will be rebuilt in stone, rather than the wood and plaster of the original, so that it will last and be easier to maintain.

Further reading

A key focal point of the Temple was a statue of Bacchus. The story of how the original statue was traced to its current location and owner can be found in Painshill Park: the restoration of a classical 18th-century landscape.