This site uses cookies, your continued use implies you agree with our cookie policy.

Chinese Summerhouse

An elegant tea hut Take me here now

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

Show transcript

It’s been a busy day, so let’s pause here by my Chinese Summer House…

It is the type of little structure that every Chinese gentleman has, you know, to help them survive the heat of a Chinese summer. It provides excellent shade, a place to sit, and if you site it properly, something restful or inspiring to look at. In this case, of course, my little lake. It is a lovely little spot to take tea with friends and visitors and relax, I think you’ll agree.

Aha, I see you’ve spotted the decorations… Those flowers painted on the bamboo blinds are Paeonia suffruticosa, or Chinese Tree Peony. The Chinese call it the ‘King of Flowers’, you know, and it is much admired by them as a symbol of honour, wealth and beauty, among other things.

They also use the bark of the roots as a form of medicine – their medicine is very different from ours, you know, but really quite effective for all that.

The verses on the screens are just something about seasons changing… it’s the kind of thing a Chinese bureaucrat would write in his spare time, and meditate upon as he admired the view. Chinese bureaucrats are like that, you know – they are expected to be highly cultured and artistic, as well as efficient.

Now I’m not saying there aren’t fellows in Whitehall who write excellent poetry on the side, but it’s hardly seen as being a requirement for getting the job, if you know what I mean.

Are you rested… good! Then let’s move on, plenty more to see!

The summerhouse was a small semi-enclosed structure where Staunton and his guests could sit on the edge of the lake (although like all follies its main purpose was decorative). We have very few clues to how it looked, sadly, as it hardly appears in any of the paintings or photographs of the park.

George Staunton himself gave us a description of the interior a having three bamboo blinds, one of which had a painting of peonies (which are much admired in Chinese culture) and the other two had Chinese verses relating to spring and autumn. 

In the centre of the summerhouse, Staunton changed direction and had a quote from the Roman poet Horace:

Hoc erat in votis: modus agri non ita magnus, hortus ubi et tecto vicinus iugis fons et pulum silvae super his foret. 

which translates as:

This is what I prayed for - a piece of land not so very large, where there would be a garden, and near the house a spring of ever-flowing water, and up above these a bit of woodland

It's nice to know that Staunton got what he prayed for!

This page is part of FOLLIES TRAIL