In 1754, the celebrated actor David Garrick purchased Hampton House (now Garrick’s Villa) which overlooks the river Thames at Hampton. He commissioned Robert Adam to improve the house, adding a classical portico and orangery. At some point in 1755 he decided to build a garden folly by the riverside which he intended to dedicate to his muse Shakespeare as a ‘temple’ to the playwright whose works he had performed to great acclaim throughout his career. Garrick used the Temple to house his extensive collection of Shakespearean relics and for entertaining his family and friends. It now houses an exhibition about Garrick himself, featuring a number of reproductions of works by major 18th century artists, including Gainsborough, Reynolds, Hogarth and Zoffany.
The Temple was built in the Classical style popularised by the Italian architect Palladio, with an Ionic portico, four columns wide by three deep, flanking the entrance. Several steps lead up to the portico. The architect is unknown as Garrick’s decision to build it is not recorded in his own papers. Robert Adam and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown have both been suggested as possibilities. An ‘Ionic Temple’ of similar design stands in the gardens of Chiswick House a few miles away. This may well have been the inspiration for Garrick's Temple, Garrick had spent his honeymoon with his wife Eva Maria in June of 1749 at Chiswick House, home of Lord and Lady Burlington. The Burlingtons were close friends of the Garricks and had acted as guardians to Eva Maria before the wedding.
On 4th August 1755, his neighbour and friend Horace Walpole wrote to a correspondent: "I have contracted a sort of intimacy with Garrick, who is my neighbour. He affects to study my taste; I lay it all upon you – he admires you. He is building a graceful temple to his master Shakespeare and I am going to adorn the outside, since his modesty would not let me decorate it within, as I proposed, with these mottos:
Quod spiro et placeo, si placea, tuum est. That I spirit have and nature, That sense breaths in ev’ry feature That I please, if please I do, Shakespear, all I owe to you.”
To preside over the interior of the Temple, in 1758 Garrick commissioned a life-sized marble statue of Shakespeare from the eminent Huguenot sculptor, Louis François Roubiliac. Garrick almost certainly posed for the statue himself – showing the Bard at the precise moment of inspiration. Completion of this commission was not without difficulties. The original version showed faint veins across the face (natural blemishes in the marble), which Garrick found unacceptable. Roubiliac had to remove the head and replace it with another of a purer marble. The original statue, bequeathed to the British Museum, is now in the British Library (without its plinth). The excellent copy now in the Temple was presented to the Temple Trust by the British Museum. In the Zoffany painting showing the Garricks resting in front of the Temple, the statue can be glimpsed through the open door of the building, reminding us of Garrick’s devotion to his idol.
Garrick’s Lawn is the name of the garden beside the Thames that surrounds the Temple. The garden was laid out in accordance with Garrick's friend William Hogarth's theory of the Line of Beauty. An S-shaped path ran between flowering shrubs in accordance with the theory's preference for serpentine shapes.
Garrick's residence was separated from his newly built Temple and riverside garden by the main road from London to Bisham, now the A308. Garrick found the road to be a hinderance, and a year or two after completion of the Temple he proposed building a footbridge. Offering an alternative idea, his lifelong friend Samuel Johnson is quoted as saying to Garrick "What can be overdone, can be underdone", and instead a tunnel was built. Emulating the style of 18th century grottos it is lined with flint and copper slag. It has often been suggested it was designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown who is also said to have previously contributed to the layout of the gardens. There is no record of his involvement in either project so this is purely a matter of conjecture. The tunnel, often referred to as 'Garrick's Grotto' is still in use today, being part of a private riverside residence. In the late 90s the current owner carried out a complete restoration.
Today the gardens are managed by the Parks and Open Spaces Department of Richmond-upon-Thames Council and their contractors, together with a group of Temple Volunteers. The intention is to retain the 18th century characteristics of the original garden whilst making this much loved riverside park relevant, useful and valuable for the local and wider community. Working from contemporary paintings, drawings and nursery lists, the garden has now been restored to echo its 18th century layout. Most of the trees, shrubs and flowers featured now were also present in Garrick's garden and are a mixture of native British plants, old garden species and plants collected from overseas, particularly America.
Above: The portico of Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare looking downstream along the River Thames towards Taggs Island and Hampton Court Bridge. (Mark Goodman, www.moleseylife.co.uk).
The Temple and garden formed the perfect setting for Garrick to cultivate his talent as a country gentleman. On May Day each year, seated on his special ‘President of the Shakespeare Club’ chair, Garrick and his wife dispensed money and cakes to the poor children of Hampton. Zoffany’s great paintings of the Garricks in the Temple gardens give an idea of the amiable style in which the couple enjoyed their country retreat, far away from their hectic London life. The Arcadian scene so moved Garrick’s long-standing friend Dr Johnson, that he is recorded as proclaiming, “Ah, David, it is the leaving of such places that makes a deathbed so terrible.”
After Garrick’s death in 1779, the villa and the Temple remained the property of his wife Eva until her death at the age of 98 in 1822. Thereafter the building passed through a succession of owners until 1932 when it was purchased by Hampton Urban District Council. By the mid 1990s the Temple was in serious need of repair and the garden sadly neglected. After a campaign supported by a group of distinguished actors, The Temple Trust, The Hampton Riverside Trust, donations from local groups as well as a successful application by the Borough of Richmond upon Thames for money from the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, it was restored in the late 1990s and reopened to the public as a museum and memorial to the life and career of Garrick. It is reputedly the world's only shrine to Shakespeare.
Above: 'The Garden at Hampton House, with Mr and Mrs David Garrick Taking Tea’, Johan Zoffany,1762. Below: 'The Shakespeare Temple at Hampton House, with Mr and Mrs David Garrick', Johan Zoffany,1762. Both paintings were bought at auction in 2011 by The Garrick Club, London. Full size reproductions are on permanent display inside the Temple.
Public opening times Temple: Sunday afternoons (14.00-17.00) from Sunday 26th March 2023 until Sunday 29th October 2023. Garden: Daily throughout the year, 7.30am to dusk.
Special group visits can be arranged at other times.
How to find us The Temple is in Hampton, Middlesex, TW12 2EJ. It is situated opposite Garrick's Villa in the public gardens (Garrick's Lawn) between the A308 (Hampton Court Road) and the banks of the river Thames. To find the Temple on Google Maps, search for “Garrick Temple, London”
CAR A308 from Kingston via Hampton Court or from M3, Junction 1. Limited parking in nearby streets.
BUSES The following buses stop close to the Temple at bus stop “Garrick Villa”. R68 Richmond to Hampton Court. 111 Kingston to Heathrow. 216 Kingston to Staines.
TRAINS From Waterloo and Clapham Junction: To Hampton Court terminus, then walk or R68 bus. or To Hampton (on Shepperton line - not Hampton Wick) then walk or 111 or 216 bus to “Garrick Villa”.
TUBE District Line to Richmond, then R68 to “Garrick Villa”. District Line to Wimbledon, then train and bus as above.
Patrons: Sir Geoffrey Cass, Michael Frayn, Sir Derek Jacobi, Robert Pennant Jones, Sir Ian McKellen, Trustees: Prunella Scales CBE, Claire Tomalin, Timothy West CBE.
Trustees: Professor John Davis, Hilary Dodman, Nathalie France, Rupert Nichol, Councillor Suzette Nicholson, Dermot Taylor, Paul Velluet, Professor Richard Wilson.
To make a charitable donation please click here to access our Givealittle donation page. Alternatively make a bank transfer payment to CAF Bank, sort code 40-52-40, account no. 00014584 or send a cheque made payable to Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare Trust to D Taylor, 30 Langham Road, Teddington, TW11 9HQ.
The line drawing of the temple in the banner is a detail from the drawing "Garrick's Temple of Shakespeare & Church at Hampton 1769" by Eric Fraser. Used here with the kind permission of Geoffrey Fraser.
Photograph 'Temple in Snow and Sunshine', Lewis Lloyd.
Photographs by kind permission of Mark Goodman www.moleseylife.co.ukandwww.accomplish.co.uk Home page: 'View of Temple, St Mary's Church, and Garrick's Villa',‘ History page: View from the Temple steps towards the the river Thames’ and ‘Path leading to the Temple’, Two paintings by Johan Zoffany, 'The Shakespeare Temple at Hampton House, with Mr and Mrs David Garrick' and 'The Garden at Hampton House, with Mr and Mrs David Garrick Taking Tea' , reproduced by courtesy of The Garrick Club, London, www.garrickclub.co.uk
‘Marble statue of Shakepseare by Roubiliac’, photograph reproduced by the kind permission of Calotype46.