This curious rustic structure once stood in the grounds of Cardross House in the parish of Port of Monteith, near Stirling. It was built by the estate gardener in around 1853, and according to a picture postcard it became known as ‘the Pagoda’. A family memoir however records it by the rather charming name of The Foghoose.
Enville, together with Hagley and The Leasowes, was one of the triumvirate of famed eighteenth-century Midland estates. The seat of the Earl of Stamford, it was ornamented with a variety of features: some have disappeared over the years, but fortunately many survive. A number of regular readers were intrigued by the image of the exquisite Museum at Enville which appeared in these pages in April, and asked to know more. So the Folly Flâneuse asked The Garden Historian, aka Dr Michael Cousins, to explain its history…
Various contenders for designer of the unusual garden building have surfaced: Sanderson Miller, the gentleman (i.e. amateur) architect who favoured the Gothick style, for one. Discussion with his mason about ‘Ld Stamfords Green House’ was underway in October 1749 and he spent the rest of that month, and most of the next, drawing up a design. Miller (1716-1780), besides his own inclination to the ‘Gothick’, had a well-stocked library to call upon that included Batty Langley’s Ancient Architecture Restored and Improved (1741/2). This was a pattern book which builders and owners used for ideas, and may have provided inspiration. By June 1750 William Shenstone, the poet and acquaintance of Stamford, was able to note the new ‘Gothick Greenhouse’ at Enville.
By 1756 Miller’s building had been renamed, with the peregrinatious Dr Pococke noting an elegant ‘Gothick Summer house of Mr Millers design’. Clearly then the greenhouse and summerhouse were one and the same building, and although it has been suggested that the first incarnation of the greenhouse was a wooden structure, no evidence has come to light to support this.
Sandy Haynes, the former archivist at and authority on Enville also concludes that the greenhouse and summerhouse were two names for the same building, writing that: ‘Sanderson Miller’s name is mentioned by too many different sources to be discounted and although Pococke refers to it as a summer-house there is no other building at Enville that he could be describing.’ Sadly no records seem to survive in which the exact use of the building is noted, so we don’t know for sure if the building ever housed plants or was simply a pleasure pavilion, or dual purpose.
By 1770 the building had been repurposed as a billiard room. Joseph Heely’s guidebook of c.1773 described it as being fitted out with a billiard table, a chamber organ, and ‘the inside richly adorned with stucco, the cieling remarkably so’. This work is more difficult to date: Haynes believes that it was during the transition to billiard room that the building acquired its elaborate interior plasterwork, and this brings in another contender: Henry Keene (1726-1776). This rare photograph of the inside of the building as it was in March 1952 shows stucco work that bears a strong resemblance to that in the chapel at Hartlebury Castle in Worcestershire, which Keene refitted and reroofed in the Gothic style in around 1750.
The association between Miller and Henry Keene was strong, with the two working together at Hagley in Worcestershire, Chart Park in Surrey and at Arbury in Warwickshire (where Keene probably took up reins as architect following Miller’s deteriorating mental ill-health at the end of 1759) and it is possible that he undertook the interior work of Enville’s summerhouse. To add to the naming confusion the summerhouse was referred to as a ‘Gothic room’ in 1759, yet was still being called a greenhouse by a visitor as late as 1777.
In 1846, soon after the 7th Earl of Stamford inherited, it was refurbished as a Museum for the display of ‘shells, fossils and curiosities’, and that name has now stuck for almost two centuries. By the middle of the twentieth century the building had decayed significantly and its plight gained public attention. Ultimately the principal structure was restored and reroofed by William Hawkes of Cave-Browne-Cave architects in 1988-9. The interior awaits restoration.
There was another Gothic feature at Enville, a ‘Gothic Seat’ which is sometimes misinterpreted as Miller’s building. It is mentioned in a letter of 1754 from John Ivory Talbot of Lacock Abbey to Miller ‘at Enville we saw an Horrid Massacre of a Fine Gothick design of yours: committed by the Hands of some Shrewsbury man…’ (it was an occasional hazard for architects to have their plans tweaked by owners or masons as soon as their backs were turned). Haynes believes it was the Gothic Seat sited at the west edge of Essex Wood that Talbot was referring to – no views survive, and it fails to get mentioned in any visitors’ accounts after 1759 and so probably disappeared soon after.
Enville is a private estate but opens very occasionally for special events. Keep an eye on their website for details https://envilleestate.com
Please get in touch if you have any thoughts or further information – scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the comments box. Please note that your email address will not be published – only your name will appear. Thank you for reading, and thank you to Michael for this guest post.
On the former Stella Hall estate, high on the south bank of the River Tyne, are the remains of an elegant octagonal pavilion which gave its name to this lofty spot: Summerhouse Hill.
Near the hamlet of Blackborough in Devon’s Blackdown Hills, remnants of the local Whetstone mining industry can be found in the woodland. A battered pile of stones could be assumed to be another relic, but the more curious visitor will be intrigued to discover that it is marked on old maps as ‘Garnsey’s Tower’.
High above the village of Yealand Conyers in Lancashire could once be found this pretty little summerhouse. It was built to take advantage of the ‘extensive and picturesque views of the adjacent bay of Morecambe, and the bold and much admired Mountain Scenery of Cumberland and Westmorland’.
Sundorne House in Shropshire was the seat of the Corbet family and the estate included the picturesque ruin of Haughmond Abbey. In 1774 John Corbet added a dramatic eye-catcher to the ensemble – a sham castle on the summit of Haughmond Hill.
North Seaton Hall stood in the hamlet of the same name, just inland from Newbiggin by the Sea on the Northumberland coast. The house and ancillary buildings were demolished in the 1960s, and the land developed for housing: only the road called ‘Summerhouse Lane’ gives a clue to a fascinating feature which once ornamented the grounds.
In a patch of scrubby woodland in a Bristol suburb stands this magnificent ecclesiastical eye-catcher. The centrepiece of the structure is the former west window of the Lord Mayor’s Chapel on College Green in Bristol, which was re-erected here when the chapel was restored in the 1820s.
Tucked in the corner of a garden in the town of Frome, Somerset, stands a little tower with a conical roof topped with a pineapple. This flamboyant finial, like the rest of the folly, is the work of the talented and resourceful Nigel Day: the uppermost leaves started life as a copper hot water cylinder.
The Folly Flâneuse is away (in search of follies of course), so until next week here is a brief look at the very pretty Music Temple at West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, the seat of the Dashwood family.
The temple, also known as the Theatre, was designed by Nicholas Revett in the late 1770s, and sits on the largest of the three islands on the lake. Sir Francis Dashwood’s guests would have been rowed over to the island for fêtes champêtres of food, wine and music.
The Music Temple is just one of the many garden features added to the West Wycombe landscape in the eighteenth century. Some are lost, but others have been restored, or indeed rebuilt, by later generations of the family.
In 1943 Sir John Dashwood gifted West Wycombe to the National Trust, but the house remains home to the Dashwood family. The house and grounds reopen in the spring https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/west-wycombe-park-village-and-hill
There will be no lounging around for the Folly Flâneuse, who will be back next week.
APOLOGIES that there has been a glitch in the system and regular readers will receive two posts this week. If you have missed the other it is here https://thefollyflaneuse.com/bonds-folly-or-creech-grange-arch-dorset/