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Visiting the garden at West Wycombe Park

The Music Temple at West Wycombe Park with swans and ducks on the lake in the foreground.
The Music Temple at West Wycombe Park | © National Trust Images / Hugh Mothersole

One of the finest surviving examples of 18th-century landscape gardens, the grounds of West Wycombe Park are also home to the numerous classically inspired ornamental temples and water features built by the 2nd Baronet, Sir Francis Dashwood. With a love of the theatrical and the mystical, Sir Francis was the founder of the Hellfire Club, which was known for its wild and extravagant parties. Explore these gardens and learn more about their history.

The Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo is also known as the Cockpit Arch. This temple was probably intended as a gateway from the drive to the forecourt of the old south front of the house, which was the original main entrance.

Dating from the early 1770s, it’s said to have been used for cock fighting. A panel over the arch is inscribed ‘Libertati Amiticiae Sac’ – ‘Sacred to Liberty and Friendship’ – a motto of the Hellfire Club.

The Round Temple

Tucked away in the south-west corner of the park, this circular dovecote has a conical roof fronted by a curved colonnade in the style of a classical rotunda.

The Temple of Venus in West Wycombe Park. The round, white pillared temple has a domed roof and sits on a small grass hill.
The Temple of Venus in West Wycombe Park | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

The Temple of the Winds

Skirt the ha-ha along the southern border of the park to reach the Temple of the Winds, a flint-faced, octagonal tower with an ice house in the basement. The temple dates from the 1750s and is inspired by the classical Tower of the Winds in Athens.

The Music Temple

On an island in the lake, emerging from the trees, stands the Music Temple, an elegant Doric temple surrounded by columns. Dating from the 1770s, it was used as a theatre and the remains of a stage can be seen inside. Musical entertainments are still sometimes held here in the summer.

The Equestrian Statue

High on the ridge behind the house stands a statue of a Roman emperor on horseback. It’s made of fibreglass and was created by Pinewood Studios as part of a set for filming at West Wycombe Park.

The late 11th Baronet Sir Francis Dashwood bought the statue from Pinewood for the price of a crate of champagne.

Water crashing through the Cascade at West Wycombe Park
The Cascade at West Wycombe Park | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

The Cascade

The Cascade marks the point where the two streams that flow into the park are dammed to form the lake. As shown in paintings of the estate from the early 1750s, the original was a huge, Rococo structure of rocks and statues.

By 1780, these elements had been dismantled and now only the substructure survives, flanked by two broad piers supporting statues of reclining water nymphs – both fibreglass copies of the originals.

Daphne’s Temple and Kitty’s Lodge

The symmetrical lodge houses in the north-east corner of the park guard the entrance to the old drive that lead up to the house. Kitty’s Lodge is named after Kitty Fisher, a famous courtesan featured in a popular nursery rhyme and quite probably a lady friend of Sir Francis, the 2nd Baronet.

The reverse side of Daphne’s Temple is a small loggia – open to the gardens – with a pyramidal roof and a splendid view across the lake to the house.

The Temple of Venus

The Temple of Venus is the most risqué of the 2nd Baronet’s creations at West Wycombe. Demolished in 1819 but reconstructed in 1982 by 11th Baronet Sir Francis, it stands on a small mound and takes the form of a rotunda enclosing a copy of the Venus de Milo.

A grotto beneath the mound, known as the parlour, is accessed through an oval entrance specifically designed to represent ‘the opening through which we all enter into this world’. It was intended as the central focal point of the park when viewed from the house.

The Water Garden

The Water Garden was commissioned by the late Sir Francis Dashwood, the 11th Baronet, and is dedicated to his second wife Marcella, (also known as the actress Marla Landi). The white bridge here bears her monogram. The Water Garden was designed by David Hicks and inspired by one at Chiswick Villa.

The Britannia Pillar

The Britannia Pillar stands at one end of the Broad Walk – a wide, grassed avenue that runs westwards from the lake. The pillar was erected by the 11th Baronet in 1986 to commemorate the Queen’s 60th birthday.

Grounds open from Sunday 2 April

We look forward to welcoming you back to West Wycombe Park on Sunday 2 April when the grounds will be open for you to enjoy.

A distant view of West Wycombe Park taken from a nearby hill, Buckinghamshire

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