Around West Wycombe's 18th-century parkland
The landscape of West Wycombe Park is largely due to the taste and designs of Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet. Later generations of Dashwoods have modified it, but in recent years much has been done to restore his vision with its host of eccentric, ornamental buildings. It is today one of the finest surviving 18th century landscape gardens. Take a look at the highlights of a gentle stroll around the beautiful grounds.
The Temple of Apollo
Also known as the Cockpit Arch, the temple was probably intended as a gateway in the drive to the forecourt of the old south front of the house - the original main entrance. Dating from the early 1770s it is said to have been used for cock fighting in the pit under the arch. A panel over the arch is inscribed ‘Libertati Amiticiae Sac’ (‘Sacred to Liberty and Friendship’) a motto of the Hell-Fire Club.
The Round Temple
Tucked away in the south-west corner of the park, the Round Temple is a circular dovecote with a conical roof fronted by a curved colonnade to give the impression of a complete classical rotunda.
The Equestrian Statue
High on the ridge behind the house stands an equestrian statue of a Roman emperor. It is made of fibre glass and was purchased by the late Sir Francis Dashwood from Pinewood Studios for the price of a crate of champagne.
The Temple of the Winds
Skirting the ha-ha along the southern border of the park you reach the Temple of the Winds, a flint-faced, octagonal tower. The temple dates from the 1750s and is inspired by the classical Tower of the Winds in Athens. The basement contains an ice house.
The Music Temple
On an island in the lake, the Music Temple is an elegant, Doric temple with a semi-circular end. Dating from the 1770s it was used as a theatre and the remains of a stage survive inside. It is still sometimes used for musical entertainments in the summer.
The Cascade marks the point where the two streams that flow into the park are dammed to form the lake. Clearly included in landscape paintings of the estate from the early 1750s it was a massive, rococo structure of rocks and statues of water gods. This original structure was almost totally dismantled by 1780 and now only the substructure survives, flanked by two broad piers supporting statues of reclining water nymphs – both fibre glass copies of the originals.
Daphne’s Temple and Kitty’s Lodge
The two, symmetrical lodge houses at the north-east corner of the park guard the entrance to the old drive to the house. Kitty’s Lodge is named after Kitty Fisher, from a popular nursery rhyme, and a famous courtesan, quite probably a lady friend of Sir Francis, 2nd Bt. The reverse side of Daphne’s Temple is a little loggia with a pyramidal roof with a splendid view across the lake to the house.
The Water Garden
The Water Garden was the work of the late Sir Francis Dashwood who dedicated it to his second wife Marcella. The white bridge here is named after her and bears her monogram. It was designed by David Hicks and inspired by one at Chiswick Villa. It stands at one end of the canal with the recently restored fountain bowl at the other. It is said that the original fountain spout rose over six metres. Often referred to as ‘gin clear,’ one of the delightful features of the park is the crystalline clarity of the chalk stream water which runs through the streams, over the cascades and into the lake.
The Temple of Venus
The most notorious temple of Sir Francis, 2nd Bt., the Temple of Venus stands on a small mound and takes the form of a rotunda enclosing a copy of the Venus de Milo. The parlour is a grotto or cave beneath the mound, entered through an oval opening flanked by curving screen walls. 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 original temple was demolished in 1819, but the present temple and parlour were reconstructed by the late Sir Francis Dashwood in 1982.
The Britannia Pillar
The Britannia Pillar stands at the end of an area of the park called the Broad Walk which is a wide, grassed avenue that runs westwards from the lake. The pillar was erected by the late Sir Francis Dashwood in 1986 in honour of the 60th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.