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A monument to past friendships Take me here now

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

Show transcript

Ah yes, the temple lawn – the ideal viewing spot for the landscape below. I bring my guests here after dinner, if it's still light, to look upon my creation and marvel at how close to perfection I have made the scene.

But their eyes are always drawn first to the little temple I have had built over here on the right – can you see ... just poking out from the trees over there?

The temple is smaller than it looks – well, that’s actually the case with almost all follies you know -but it does have a purpose apart from looking pretty. You see, it is a sort of memorial to all the people I have especially admired over the years, with a monumental urn and busts and inscriptions around the walls.

Some of them were people in the public eye, but mostly they were friends, patrons or fellow enthusiasts. Sir Joseph Banks is in there – he set up Kew Gardens, you know .. And Puankhequa, of course, the splendidly successful and rather devious merchant I dealt with for years in Canton – wonderful man, very hospitable, very wise.

But if I had to pick out two people that the temple mostly honours, it would be my father George Leonard Staunton, and my mentor George Canning, the late Prime Minister, you know. Two giants of their day, and worth building a temple for.

I hope someone finds my life equally worth commemorating, when the time comes… you know… a man likes to leave a legacy… where next? Lead on!

Before the great Leigh Mansion was built on this site, the area was known as Temple Lawn after one of the larger follies that Sir George Staunton built here in 1824. The Temple of Departed Parents and Friends (Parentibus et Amices defunctis sacrum) was built with four Ionic pillars in the portico, and is similar to the Temple of Flora at Stourhead.

Over the years, the inside of the Tempe became rather crowded. It started with a large stone urn and four busts, but later had 24 busts as well as plaques. Alongside his father, Staunton honoured friends he particularly admired, including the former Prime Minister George Canning, the great botanist Joseph Banks, and the Chinese merchant Paunkhequa

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