The Fishing Pavilion at Kedleston Hall

Andrew Barber, Curator Andrew Barber Curator
The fishing pavilion by the lake at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire

In the Fishing Pavilion at Kedleston Robert Adam designed a miniature temple for the enjoyment of the (ever-so civilised and not- too-frightening) outdoors.

Set in the manicured  perfection of the park landscape on the edge of a little lake with an island set in its midst, the pavilion acted as a boathouse, a plunge bath, a fishing house and a little tea house, all rolled into one.

Its decoration sets out its marine purpose from the start with hippocamps (literally horses of the sea) ridden by putti carved on the front of the building. These appeared again in the painted ceiling (now lost) in the Fishing Room where shells form a major part of the decorative scheme along with paintings of fish and fishermen and, on the fireplace, a wonderful array of carved seashells and hippocamps frolicking in the surf with sea nymphs (replacing the little putti of the front and ceiling) to recline on their sea-horses’ grateful backs.

Fishy images adorn the walls
Images of fish from the walls of the pavilion at Kedleston
Fishy images adorn the walls

The delightfully named George Moneypenny was responsible for the carving. From the large sash windows and seated on the fishing stools recorded here in an inventory of 1804, the ladies of the party could cast a line out over the lake in the hope of catching rudd, perch or chubb, all of which are depicted in the paintings that line the walls.

With the fire to warm them and tea to refresh, once joined by the gentlemen (themselves cleansed and invigorated by a quick dip in the plunge pool situated in the chamber below) the party was complete and the arduous walk back to the Hall could be undertaken with some confidence of success.

The view of the pavilion toward the lake
The fishing pavilion at Kedleston Hall
The view of the pavilion toward the lake

This little room, centred on its whimsical fireplace, is the place for Georgian daydreams of garlanded seashells and languorous maidens reclining on gleeful sea-horses, with a tiny glint in their eyes.