Posted: May 18th 2020
by Emma Bushell, Marketing
Not far from the imposing obelisk, hiding in the woods, is the Temple - my absolute favourite thing in Holkham Park. The Temple was completed in 1734 before the house itself and, true to Thomas Coke’s love of Roman architecture, it is built in neo-classical style. The Doric design was ‘deduced from sketches of Mr Kent’, ie William Kent’s original drawings were somewhat altered to give us the Temple as we still see it today.
The Temple’s original purpose was to be a focal point in the landscape, and a perfect place the family and their guests to enjoy picnics or even just stopping off for a rest. Inside is ideal for entertaining with a large central room, a larder behind, two small side rooms and a cellar below. Comfort was certainly not forgotten – we know from the archives that it was originally furnished with crimson damask hangings and chairs.
Times change, and the temple went out of fashion as a leisure destination and took on its new role as accommodation for Holkham workers. We know from the 1841 census that a shepherd lived there, and the 1851 census lists three generations of a shepherd’s family and a labouring family – a house-full indeed!
In the early twentieth century the Temple was lived in by Edmund Balls, gardener at the hall for 52 years, and his wife Jane. Their son Arthur was the last child to be born in the Temple in 1902, and we have some wonderful recollections of his. Arthur remembered wild bees nesting in the dome ceiling and their honey dripping on the table below; and his father’s pony, which lived in the cellar underneath Arthur’s bed, rolling over in the night and scraping its hoofs on the ceiling. Modesty was an important virtue at the time, and Arthur recounted how his mother disapproved of the four nude statues in the alcoves, so she made them cloaks with drawstrings round their necks to cover them up and make them decent!
After the Ball family left, the Temple remained unoccupied. It suffered badly from wartime use by the Home Guard between 1939-1945 and was very much in need of TLC in the 1950s when the 5th Earl started a project to restore it.
The Temple has now gone full circle and returned to its heyday. It is the perfect place for the family’s shooting lunches during the winter and romantic weddings and special celebrations in the summer.