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Big enough for a garrison of one Take me here now

Make sure your volume is on: "Sir George talks about the Fort"

Show transcript

Halt, or I fire! Don’t panic, just my little joke, but you really are under the guns of my little ornamental fort, just over there on the island.

It’s charming, isn’t it… just about big enough for a one-man garrison as long as he doesn’t want to lie down!

It’s another of the designs I brought back from China – they build their forts with outward sloping walls, you see, tremendously thick at the base, almost impossible to batter down. Every city in China is fortified, you know. In fact the word for ‘city’ is also the word for ‘wall’. If you aren’t fortified, you aren’t a city, no matter how big you are.

When I use this little fort for fireworks and mock sieges, I fly the imperial flag of the Manchu emperor over it, bright yellow with a long dragon… it looks most dramatic.

Looking back, I’m so sad that our relationship with the Chinese has become so one-sided, especially with that war we fought about opium. The East India Company should never have allowed merchants to pay for tea with smuggled opium – that’s not right, and we all knew it, I think. But merchants can get mesmerised by profits. I spoke out against the whole shoddy episode in my House of Commons speech – said the Chinese would never forget or forgive, and we were storing up trouble for the future.

Well, we shall see if I am right, I suppose.

The small island (off the large island) in the middle of the lake has a tiny ornamental fort hidden among the trees. The fort has outward-sloping walls, a typical Chinese fortification design. 

This folly was built on by order of George Staunton, who decorated the park into an idealised landscape. In his notes on the house and gardens, he described it as 'a battery of Purbeck stone, pierced for nine guns, and displaying, on a red pole, the Imperial yellow flag of China.'

Having lived in Canton (Guangzhou) George Staunton would have known the two small 'folly forts' built by the French and the Dutch to protect the harbour there. Unlike most Europeans, Staunton had also seen the great fortifications on the route leading to Beijing when he accompanied his father on a diplomatic trip to the Imperial Court in the 1790s. These may have been part of his inspiration for this folly.

The toy fort in the lake was used from time to time for fireworks displays, but eventually became overgrown and forgotten. 

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