Sunday, July 31, 2011

Passage to Africa III - Stowe (Part I)

I suppose Mr. Temple-Grenville didn’t tell the missus that there might be a small possibility of bankruptcy should they choose to lavishly entertain Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and entire entourage, at their home, Stowe Palace. Unfortunately, this was soon realized and led to the ‘Great Sale’ in 1848.

Prior to this, in an attempt grow their political ambitions the family had refurbished and reinvented the house and gardens over a period of 150 years. Dukedom was finally bestowed upon them in 1822 – that of Buckingham and Chandos.

The original house was designed as the principle temple in the landscaped gardens, which reveal forty-two smaller monuments – an architectural ode to Greek and Roman Classicism at its finest and created by the finest sculptors and architects of the 18th century. There’s the Temple of British Worthies, the Corinthian Arch, and Fane of Pastoral Poetry, to mention a few — each more exquisite than the one before.

There are simply no words to describe how it feels to see Stowe for the first time. It is undoubtedly the most glorious estate I have ever been to. And to think it was almost demolished in 1923… had it not been for the creation of Stowe School. The very first headmaster, JF Roxburgh, was convinced that every pupil who attended this fine school (past Stoics such as David Niven and Richard Branson) would “know beauty when he sees it all his life.”

It was a privilege to stay there and I feel positively envious that my nephew has Stowe to wake up to every morning — the animated sounds of boys and girls breathing life into the corridors once more. Personally, I would be quite content just polishing the vast front steps…

Stowe School

Detail from stained glass window in the chapel

Queen Elizabeth I (from The Temple of British Worthies)
Detail of fireplace/mantel in the Library

Ceiling - Blue Room

Marble busts in the Library

Detail of a tomb in the Chapel - so poignant

Temple of British Worthies

Thomas Gresham (Temple of British Worthies)

Gothic Temple (and someone was living there - swoon)
All images by Craig Strydom and Philippa Berrington-Blew

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