9.7.16

Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare

The Impact of Ancient Greece on the Modern World

Mr Garrick does the honours of this monument in a manner which inhances (sic) his merit in erecting it 'I owe everything says he to Shakespeare: si vivo et valio, suum est: this is but a weak testimony of gratitude which knows no bounds.

This celebrated person is said to have been appointed by an English nobleman guardian to his only son, By this choice and this monument of his gratitude to Shakespeare, Mr Garrick may vie with, those players of ancient Greece, who were not excluded by their profession, from places that required the greatest abilities and the strictest probity'.
Garrick's Temple on the Thames Riverside at Hampton was built by the great 18th century actor-manager David Garrick in 1756 to celebrate the genius of William Shakespeare.

Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare is a small garden folly erected in 1756 on the north bank of the River Thames at Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Grade I listed, it was built by the actor David Garrick to honour the playwright William Shakespeare, whose plays Garrick performed to great acclaim throughout his career. During his lifetime Garrick used it to house his extensive collection of Shakespearean relics and for entertaining his family and guests. It passed through a succession of owners until coming into public ownership in the 20th century, but fell into serious disrepair by the end of the century. After a campaign supported by distinguished actors and donations from the National Lottery's "good causes" 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.
The temple and villa remained in the hands of Garrick's wife until her death in 1822 at the age of 98. It was subsequently bought by her solicitor, Thomas Carr, who preserved it as a monument to Garrick and even erected a statue of him in the temple to replace the Roubiliac Shakespeare. It changed hands several more times until, in 1923, the villa was converted into apartments. The riverside lawn was sold separately along with the temple and was bought by a Paul Glaize, who built a three-storey house alongside the temple. This caused such controversy and public outcry that in 1932 the site was bought by Hampton Urban District Council so that Glaize's Temple House could be demolished. The lawn and temple were subsequently opened to the public. They have remained in public ownership ever since.

During the Second World War the temple was used as a post for Air Raid Precautions wardens. It was given Grade I listed status in September 1952 and became part of a conservation area in the 1960s, when it was used for poetry readings. However, it had become neglected and vandalised by the 1970s. It suffered from wet and dry rot, vibrations from traffic on the busy nearby road had damaged the fabric of the building and thieves had stolen the lead off the roof. Donald Insall Associates, a specialist conservation architectural firm, was commissioned by Richmond upon Thames Council to restore the building at a cost of £37,000. The work was carried out by the building firm Gostling and the architect James Lindus Forge. Patrick Baty advised on the paint colours.

By the 1990s the temple's condition had deteriorated again and it had suffered heavy vandalism. The Richmond and Twickenham Times reported in 1994 that it was in a state of "dangerous disrepair" and had suffered from "the theft of lead from the roof and graffiti spray-painted on the walls of the Georgian folly." Vandals had also hacked away one of the wooden columns supporting the portico. In 1995 a campaign was launched to restore the temple and the garden and put them back into use for cultural purposes. The Heritage Lottery Fund provided £70,000 in 1998–99. Other local groups and a campaign led by the actor Sir John Gielgud provided additional funding to carry out restoration work. The restoration fund was also supported by the actors Sir Peter Hall, Sir Donald Sinden and Richard Briers, and Dame Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons and others have subsequently made donations.

The restoration work was undertaken by Donald Insall Associates. The temple was reopened to the public in late 1998, and in early 1999 the garden was replanted to replicate its original Georgian appearance. The British Museum provided a copy of Roubiliac's statue of Shakespeare to occupy the vacant niche where the original had once stood. The temple was populated with an exhibition on Garrick's life and career, including copies of portraits by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Zoffany.
The project was completed by April 1999.

Today the temple is managed by Garrick's Temple Partnership, which brings together the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, the Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare Trust, the Temple Trust, the Thames Landscape Strategy and Hampton Riverside Trust. The Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare Trust is chaired by the actor Clive Francis, and Liz Crowther is a member of the Temple Management Committee. The temple is open to the public on Sunday afternoons between April and September. It is used for concerts, annual general meetings and private events, and runs an educational programme for local schoolchildren in conjunction with the nearby Orleans House.

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