The Temple was built in the late 18th century for Isaac Hawkins Browne, a wealthy scholar and connoisseur. It has been ascribed to James Wyatt (1746-1813), the most famous architect of his day. Perched on a steep bank and partly hidden by trees, this Greek Doric temple commands a spectacular view over the picturesque landscape of Badger Dingle.
The Picturesque Ideal
The 18th century witnessed an increasingly scholarly interest in all aspects of Antiquity. Inspired by the paintings of 17th-century French artists Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, wealthy landowners created ordered 'picturesque' landscapes enlivened with classical garden pavilions. At that time the word 'picturesque' was redefined as an aesthetic quality; characterised in the landscape garden by dramatic scenery, deep chasms and dense woodland.
The Temple was designed circa 1783 as an architectural ornament, viewing platform and place of resort. Constructed of local sandstone, the building had a basement containing a service area and a main salon above with views out over the pool. The salon was heated by flues in the rear apsidal wall, which conducted heat from fires in the basement, a system based on the Roman hypocaust. Gracilla Boddington, who lived at Badger Hall during the 1 820s, describes idyllic summer evenings entertaining at The Temple and rowing on the pool. The estate later passed to the Capel Cure family, who used The Temple until the 1 930s, most notably for their curious exercise in role reversal - an annual tea party in which they waited on their servants.
Sir Isaac Hawkins Browne
With the profits from his interests in the Midlands' iron and coal industries, Isaac Hawkins Browne purchased the Badger estate in 1774 for £30,000. Like many of his contemporaries he was inspired, while on the Grand Tour, to become a patron of the arts. In 1779 he commissioned James Wyatt to enlarge Badger Hall, the estate's existing three-storey brick house. Although the exterior of the building remained plain, the interior was decorated in elegant neo-classical style.
James Wyatt (1746-1813)
The son of a timber merchant and builder, Wyatt came from the Midlands. His first building, The Pantheon, a public assembly room in London, was completed in 1772 and was an instant success. Thereafter, the versatile Wyatt was to be inundated with commissions for the remainder of his career.
The Temple at Badger Dingle is a good example of Wyatt's work in the Greek Revival manner. The building, with its geometrical play on segments and arcs, resembles another Wyatt pavilion, Fawley Temple in Henley. The front of The Temple has a characteristic bow colonnade topped by a low dome and flanked by arched niches, the projecting semi-circle being mirrored to the rear of the building by an apsidal wall. There are sadly no extant drawings by Wyatt of The Temple, although a design for a pigeon house by him at Badger survives.
In September 1813, Wyatt died in a carriage accident. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Despite a successful career his affairs were left in chaos as a result of negligence and debauchery.
William Emes was the creator of the picturesque landscape at Badger Dingle. Emes (d. 1803) had been a pupil of Capability Brown and had recently completed the gardens at Dudmaston. Inspired by the dramatic ravine garden at Downton Castle in Herefordshire, Emes' transformation of the deep gorge at Badger was one of his most successful designs.
Further additions and improvements were made in 1806 by Emes' partner John Webb (d. 1828). As well as damming the brook to form three long, ornate pools, Webb created a network of paths and installed several architectural features such as the boathouse, Rotunda, an icehouse and caves. In 1849 the Dingle was opened to the public and it remained a popular resort for tourists throughout the 19th century.
The Decline of The Temple
The Temple continued in use until the 1940s. During the war lead was stripped from the roof, causing the roof and colonnade to collapse. The building gradually deteriorated owing to rainwater penetration and frost damage. The Hall, which had been requisitioned as a school in 1943, was demolished in 1952.
The Archaeological Survey
In 1992 The Vivat Trust submitted a rescue plan for the Dingle and its structures to the owner, Sir Adrian Swire. In 1995 Vivat was granted the freehold of The Rotunda, Pattingham Bridge and The Temple. A detailed archaeological survey of The Temple and Rotunda was carried out before restoration work was undertaken. Vital evidence unearthed during the survey enabled the architect to reconstruct missing details including the paint scheme. Amongst the discoveries was a Pirian marble head, believed to have been part of Edward Cheyney's sculpture collection. Cheyney was a connoisseur and collector who spent much of his youth in Italy and who inherited the Badger estate in the 19th century The marble head is believed to have been mounted on a stone bust and set within one of The Temple's niches.
The Restoration of The Temple
Under the supervision of Andrew Arrol of Arrol & Snell Architects of Shrewsbury, Frank Galliers Ltd carried out basic structural repairs including the reinstatement of the colonnade, façade, roof and shallow dome. To convert the building into holiday accommodation, essential services were connected and The Temple was furnished in a style appropriate to the era of the building. Elements of Wyatt's design for the staircase at Badger Hall were copied in wrought iron and lead and painted furniture inspired by his work was produced by Peter Vidal of Oswestry. Approaching The Temple via the reclaimed carriage drive across the repaired Pattingham Bridge, the present day visitor experiences the enchantment that once bewitched so many Victorian sightseers.
The Vivat Trust would like to thank the following for their generous support in restoring and furnishing The Temple: Addis Housewares Ltd, Alan Evans Memorial Trust, Barclays Bank plc, Bart Spices, Boningale Nurseries, Bose Ltd, Brabantia (UK) Ltd, Braun UK, Bridgnorth District Council, Brinton 's Ltd, The Bristol Guild, Cally & Co. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Caradon Mira Limited, Charles Bentley & Son, Chef Set, Chromette Ltd, Chortex, Claverley Company, Crabtree Electrical Industries Ltd, Crabtree & Evelyn, Dexam International Ltd, Dorma, English Heritage, Geebro Ltd, G & H Brassware, Habitat (UK) Ltd. Hepworths plc, Hoover Candy Group, Hoselock Ltd, Isis Ceramics, JAS Trust, John Allen Designs, J S & S Ltd, Kensington Carpets, The Leche Trust, The Lower Hall Trust, Manby & Steward Charitable Trust, Morphy Richards, Neff (UK) Ltd. Osborne & Little plc, Persephone Books Ltd, The Nomads Tent, The Sammermar Trust, Samuel Heath & Sons plc, Slumberdown, Sotheran's, Swire Charitable Trust, Tarmac plc, FJ Thornton & Co Ltd, Toshiba, Josiah Wedgewood & Sons Ltd, T & G Woodware Ltd, Viners of Sheffield plc, Xpelair and Zoffany Ltd.