The Temple was Thomas Coke’s first building at Holkham and was built between 1730 and 1734. It was preceded only by the Obelisk, started a year earlier. Holkham Hall itself was not started until 1734. Work had begun on creating the great lawn, sweeping up from the site of the future hall towards the obelisk and on planting the Obelisk Wood but the transformation of the arable fields and sheep walks was far from complete: the Temple and the Obelisk, standing high above the saplings, were prominent symbols of Coke’s intentions.
The Temple with its portico and central octagon surmounted by a cupola was probably inspired by Lord Burlington’s recently completed house at Chiswick. It was said that Burlington, Coke’s friend and fellow connoisseur of architecture, pronounced the Temple to be ‘the best-executed piece of work he had seen performed in his lifetime.’
White bricks were specially made for the first time at the estate brickworks for building the Temple. Their success here showed the way, when it became clear that it would not be feasible to build Holkham Hall in stone, as originally intended, however stone for the portico of the Temple was shipped from Bath to Wells-next-the-Sea. Many of the craftsmen and tradesmen who first appeared working at the Temple and the Obelisk were to continue working at Holkham for many years.