The grandly-named ‘Temple of Naval Heroes’ stands at the end of a narrow causeway that leads from the grounds of Storrs Hall out into the water, offering magnificent views up and down the lake. The temple was constructed by Sir John Legard of Storrs Hall as an ornament to the new house he had built in the last years of the eighteenth century, and as an expression of his patriotism, Sir John being ‘passionately attached to his country’. The octagonal building carries plaques celebrating four great naval victors in the ongoing war against the French– Admirals Howe, St Vincent, Duncan and Nelson.
Legard had travelled extensively in Europe in his younger years but suffered ill-health later in life, including a weakness in his legs which left him unable to walk. Determined to enjoy an outdoor life, he retired to the shores of Windermere where he could indulge his love of sailing. Sir John was instrumental in establishing an annual regatta on Windermere in 1801, carrying on the tradition established on Derwentwater in the previous century. In his appositely named yacht, The Victory, Sir John triumphed over other local landowners, and it is likely that when he dedicated his summerhouse to the admirals he was playfully reminding his neighbours that his prowess on the lake matched that of the Royal Navy at sea.
Sir John’s health continued to deteriorate and he left Storrs only a couple of years later but subsequent owners continued to appreciate the diminutive temple. It must have been something of a squeeze when on 2 May 1805 Jessy Harden of Brathay Hall and ten friends ‘breakfasted in the Temple of the Heroes’. Harden also joined another excursion to the temple later that month; a party that was immortalised in print after one of the revellers wrote a 14-page mock-heroic poem describing the day:
A Pic Nic I sing, of the very first rate,
A moderniz’d party, a new-fangl’d fete.
By the middle of the twentieth century the grade II* listed ‘little gazebo’ had succumbed to the ‘wear and tear of wind and water (and perhaps hooligans)’ and was looking rather sad. An appeal in 1962 raised £1,253, enough to cover the costs of restoration with a small surplus for maintenance. The owners of Storrs Hall, by now a hotel, handed the building to the National Trust in 1965 and visitors can walk through the hotel grounds and out to the temple.
J.M.W. Turner painted the regatta a few years later. Here’s the engraved version, but you can see the original in glorious watercolour at the Tullie House Gallery in Carlisle until 5 January 2020 https://www.tulliehouse.co.uk/events/turner-northern-exposure
Storrs Hall info here https://www.storrshall.com