Creating a perfect paradise
After his travels around Europe, Thomas Anson came home and wanted to make Shugborough his own perfect paradise. His landscape creation was ground-breaking as it included some of the first neo-Greek structures in the country by architect Thomas Wright.
Returning from his Grand Tour, Thomas and his brother George embarked upon transforming Shugborough. Their changes included the house, gardens and wider estates, establishing the Anson name and positioning Shugborough as a pioneering example in garden design, largely thanks to architect Thomas Wright.
Thomas Wright’s first creation was the Chinese house in 1747. This was designed to celebrate George Anson’s visit to China and triumphal return to Britain. It was based on original sketches taken from garden architecture Anson and his crew saw in Guangzhou (formerly Canton) in 1742. Once complete, this building was part of a scheme which included two ‘Chinese style’ bridges and a boat house. It was among one of the first garden buildings in Britain to reflect the wider fashion of Chinoiserie.
Between 1748 – 58, Thomas erected the enigmatic and poignant Shepherds monument. This monument was inspired by an oil painting by Poussin, Et In Arcadia Ego. If you look closely at the monument, you can see the Latin phrase ‘even in Paradise, I too [Death] am here’.
As you walk round to the formal gardens behind the mansion, you will spot the stoic ruins down by the river. It was built in 1750 and once sat opposite the colonnade that was swept away by the great flood of 1795.
Wright’s final monument, the Cat’s Monument, is thought to be made at the same time as the ruin. It is believed to either commemorate George Anson’s cat or Thomas’ Persian Cat, Kouli Khan.
The monument is made of Coade stone. First marketed at around 1770, it was considered the first ‘artificial stone’. The material is actually a mixture of clay, terracotta, silicates and glass which is then fired in kilns for four days at a time. Its recipe was a closely regarded secret.