The National Trust has applied for Listed Building Consent to place two replica busts in the Temple of Piety at Studley Royal.
Construction of the temple overlooking the Moon Ponds took place in the 1730s, probably under the direction of the stonemason John Doe. The architect is not known although the building is identical to a Palladio drawing of the (long since destroyed) Temple of Piety in Rome. This sketch was once owned by Lord Burlington, a friend of John Aislabie who owned Studley.
Confusingly, the structure at Studley was not originally known as the Temple of Piety but was dedicated to Hercules. Aislabie’s son William renamed the temple in honour of his late father, John Aislabie, in around 1747-8. At that date he commissioned the plasterwork specialist Cortese to add a bas-relief representing filial piety. This work illustrated an ancient moral tale in which a daughter manifested her love for her parent. The story told of a girl who visited her incarcerated father and secretly fed him her own breast milk to ensure his survival. When discovered, she was not punished, but praised for her devotion.
An inventory of 1768 shows that the building was used for refreshments, containing 6 chairs and a tea table but records don’t survive to confirm when the two busts were placed in situ. They are first recorded in 19th century guidebooks as the Roman emperors Titus, son of Vespasian, and Nero.
If you look hard you will find the original bronze busts on display at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire (also National Trust) where they were removed for safekeeping. They look rather forlorn and undignified perched on high ledges on the first floor landing. The resin replicas are on show in a better light in Fountains Hall on the Studley estate until the outcome of the application is known; Harrogate Borough Council’s decision should be announced in September 2018