On the Sunday of the Open House London weekend, I headed south again to visit Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, created by David Garrick for his hero William Shakespeare. Born in Hereford and raised in Lichfield, Garrick moved to London and became the most well-known and acclaimed actor of the age. In 1754 he purchased Hampton House, now Garrick’s Villa, overlooking the Thames at Hampton.
His riverside garden was laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and this octagonal Palladian temple was built in 1756. The temple has a dome and eight Ionic columns, making it similar in style to the temple at Chiswick House.
From the temple, Garrick gave money and cakes to poor children every year on May Day. He also used it for entertaining friends such as Dr Johnson, as well as for writing and storing relics to Shakespeare. Eventually he had a tunnel constructed to enable him to reach the temple from his house.
In 1758 Garrick commissioned a life-size marble statue of Shakespeare from the eminent Huguenot sculptor, Louis François Roubiliac *Garrick may have posed for this himself). The original version had ‘veins’ across the face, a characteristic of the marble; Garrick insisted the head was replaced. The original statue is now in the British Library; this version was given to the Trust by the British Museum.
The temple eventually fell into disrepair until the late 20th century when the local council and several charities raised funds to restore the building and lay out the gardens again. It is now managed by the Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare Trust, and contains copies of paintings from major galleries plus original 18th century prints and engravings about Garrick. It’s open on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer months and occasionally you can attend concerts here, too.
Address: Hampton, Middlesex, TW12 2EJ
Opening Hours: Sundays 2-5 March-Oct (check the website for exact dates/times)