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PRIDEAUX PLACE, PADSTOW, CORNWALL

THE TEMPLE and OBELISK

erected for Edmond Prideaux,

Third son of Humphrey Prideaux,

The Dean of Norwich.

 

Photograph – before Clearance and Restoration

 

The British Geological Survey has identified the stone as a Jurassic Oolitic limestone. It had been claimed for some time that this was built in 1740, following Edmond Prideaux's "Grand Tour". A careful  search through the 9,000 books in the library at Prideaux, revealed the original  manuscript of the "Cash Book 1725". In reading this through, it became apparent that corrections were necessary to the present dating of the Temple.

 

Edmond Prideaux is noted in Collectanea Cornubiensa as being born in Soham Toney 22nd February 1693 and buried in Padstow 23rd June 1745. Edmond Prideaux moved to Cornwall,  according to his Cash Book, on August 4th  1729 at an expense of £391, including items purchased. He had inherited Prideaux Place in 1727.

 

From the Cash Book entry for expenses in September 1732, Edmond states "Taken along with me to Bath,  Sept 21st 1732, £86-19s-6d". Edmond states that he received in London 1734/5, May 5th in "Fees at Bath" £8-8s. There is also a bill for Dick George at Bath on 13th July 1737.

 

Another entry in the Cash Book relates that, on 14th June 1735, Edmond Prideaux "received of Mr. Ralph Allen for a bill on Sir Francis Child and Comp'y" the sum of £30. Edmond received of Sir Francis Child by Bill to Broad £17-0s-0d on the 17th January 1738. Received £31 10s "of Sr Francis Child by bill to Allen" 13th May 1738.

 

Of particular interest are the two following entries. ......

Jan 1 1739 "To Allen for stone as by bill £15-17s-0d" Jan 17 1739

"To Mr Richard Broad free stone mason for work done in my garden ...

working & setting ye Temple,  Obelisk stone seats etc £25-Os-Od. "

the words  "Working &" has been added in the margin as an afterthought.

 

On March 3rd 1739, Edmond Prideaux makes the entry....

"I  left my own house at Padstow and went out of England May 21st,

having been with my eldest son Humphrey in France, Italy and Germany, I

returned into England the 1st July 1740 and I expended during that time

in Travelling expenses,  expenses of my two sons and daughters besides

repairs of my house, servant's wages &c

about — £ 1715-15s-6d", And then on October 30th

1740 "got home after an absence of more than a year and a halfe, Deo

Gratias, in good health."

 

Edmond was a keen scholar and book collector. Some significance may be drawn from the entry in the Cash Book to John Knapton, bookseller, on 14th December 1738. It is quite possible that Edmond purchased some books ( most likely that of William Kent ) for the sum of £15-14s on classical architecture for Mr. Broad to use, the date of settlement of Mr. Knapton' s account precedes the settlement of Ralph Allen's and Richard Broad's by so short a time...

 

The Order of the columns on The Garden Temple at Prideaux Place is an exact copy of the Ionic Order to be found on the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome. The proportions and order do not match those on the Temple of Fortuna Virilis at all, despite it’s general form.

 

Edmond Prideaux was already aware of the interest in classical design and that it was the mark of a gentleman to have such works in the grounds. He was also connected with many members of the Dilettanti, though not a member, himself. Edmond was known to Sir Robert Walpole ( close friend of Lord Burlington ) and was a university friend of Lord Hobart ( 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire ) amongst others. Edmond Prideaux had his portrait painted by William Aikman ( commissioned by Lord Hobart ). Edmond spent much time visiting friends and family, touring the countryside and making topographical studies of many buildings, including one drawing dated 1720, of the Temple at Narford, Norwich, dated 1720, built by Andrew Fountaine in 1719, the person is accredited with bringing the Palladian Orders back into England.

 

In 1701, Sir Andrew Fountaine travelled to Hanover and on to Munich and Italy, where he bought many antiquities and curiosities. It was said that Sir Andrew Fountaine was the first to bring the Palladian Order of Architecture to Britain, as he was the designer of the Temple at Narford Hall. It was said that plans for the house and grounds were prepared in 1701 and put into construction in 1705, presumably on his return from the Grand Tour. As much as Inigo Jones was the man who introduced the Palladian Style to England, all changed through times of civil war and the Baroque and it was William Kent and others who gained the ear of Richard Boyle ( Lord Burlington ) a hundred years later, and the new age had begun.

 

Lord Burlington sponsored a number of books:

Vitruvius Britannicus (1715) by Colen Campbell;

The Designs of Inigo Jones (1727) by William Kent;

Palladio's Four Books of Architecture, Isaac Ware (1738).

and there was also …

Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture, by the Venetian Giacomo Leoni (1715);

A Book of Architecture by James Gibbs (1728);

The City and Country Builders and Workman's Treasury of Designs by Batty Langley (1740).

 

The Temple at Prideaux Place is almost identical to that at Narford and it is easy to picture Edmond's lively interest being taken into the dream of building a temple for himself, when he took over Prideaux Place. He had also been taken with the idea of an obelisk as he also had visited Holkham Hall ( built 1728 ) amongst other houses. There is no doubt either that Edmond would have met architects and designers, probably John Wood included, and that he would have visited the quarry at Combe Down. He was just too interested in everything to have missed out on such opportunities. The Temple was finished in 1738, as stated in his Cash Book, which he kept until 1st June 1745.

 

From Edmond Prideaux’s Drawing of Prideaux Place 1740

 

Ralph Allen was the Deputy Postmaster of Bath, who later bought Combe Down Quarries in 1727 and became the Mayor of Bath in 1742. Ralph Allen was an English philanthropist, friend of Pope, Fielding and, particularly, Chatham - William Pitt, son of Robert Pitt of Bocconoc. Ralph Allen had, as Deputy Postmaster, devised a system of cross-country posts in England and Males, and, from 1720, raised a profit of £12,000 per year, in his life earning a total of some £500,000, a vast fortune. It is small wonder that Ralph had an interest in postal systems, as his Grandmother kept the St. Columb post office. Ralph was the son of John Allen of St. Blazey and Mary Elliot of St. Austell ( married 10 February 1687 ), who both ran the Duke William Inn on the St. Blazey highway.

 

He enjoyed the Patronage of General Wade after he had detected and reported a Jacobite Plot. The work in the quarries at Combe Down increased his income, and in this connection he devised a system and contrivance to carry the blocks of stone down to the canal.

 

Allen supported many with assistance and was charitable and so known for his munificence and, being "lavishly expended", became known as "The Man of Bath", and drawn as "Squire Allworthy" in "Tom Jones" written by Fielding in 1749. With some of his fortune Ralph Allen built Prior Park Manor-House at Widcombe, near his quarries.

 

Ralph Allen employed the services of John Wood the Elder ( 1705-1754 ) being a Yorkshireman who settled in Bath in 1727, to become, with his son, the architects of many fine buildings and streets in Bath. It is recorded that John Wood supervised the quarrying and working of the stone at Combe Down quarries. He and Ralph Allen wanted to show off the stone at it's best at Prior Park which was begun 1735 and finished in stages up to 1743. John Wood also designed many small pavilions and garden ornaments, spas and springs. In view of the dates and personal connections, it may be surmised that the architect for the Garden Temple at Prideaux Place was none other than John Wood the Elder. There is, however, no direct evidence for this.

A Greenwich Architect who designed a number of buildings in Cornwall, at the time, was Thomas Edwards. There is no reference or connection that can be drawn or found to link the two men. In particular, the design and details do not conform to those found at Prideaux. The detail and proportion is akin to that used by John Wood, being of a pure, refined design, with an element of grandeur. Thomas Edward's designs, although competent, had none of these elements.

 

Ralph Allen supplied stone to many locations besides Prideaux Place for houses and landscape gardens, but few records survive. He supplied an Obelisk (1730) and a temple (1731) to Holkham Hall, Norfolk, and nearer to Cornwall at Halsewell in Somerset there is a recently restored Bath stone Temple but nothing other than Bath stone and a mid 18th century date to link it to Ralph Allen.

 

The logistics of transporting stone in the country, were far more difficult than can be imagined. The roads in Cornwall were such that merchandise was carried on mule-back teams. Some bridges existed, built at the expense of some pious gentlemen. Main roads, for example London to Bath were merely strips of road between morasses and coverts. It was not uncommon to see 500 or so ponies and mules at any one time. Acts of Parliament put forward by James II, built better roads, and turnpike companies were set up. First in Cornwall, 1754, was Falmouth to Grampound via Truro. Until then it must be said that to move stone about Cornwall from the ports was extremely difficult.

 

As far as the stone itself is concerned, it has been confirmed that the Temple has been built of the best of the finest oolitic limestone, Combe Down Oolite is considered to be of the very highest order of "freestone", the name given by the masons for stone of high quality free of defects, voids and fissures, easy to work to fine details. Freestone is commonly accepted to mean a limestone. It is therefore important to realise that when Edmond says that Richard Broad is a "freestone mason" that this mason was familiar with the working of limestone, as opposed to local stone.

 

It seems likely that to reduce the amount of stone actually transported and to ensure that there was enough stone for the job that the stone was at least partially worked before it left the quarries at Combe Down. It must therefore be supposed that the stonework was worked by Richard Broad with the benefit of John Wood's advice.

 

The Temple is clearly built on an older base, with the Bath Stone front in its classical design, however, the roof pitch of the slate work does not match that of the cornice of the pediment, making flashing more difficult, leaving the question of the possibility of the brick building of the naos having been built before the classical front. After all, since the roof had been re-built in later times, this would have been the opportunity to make the pitches match, but the roof pitch was dictated by the pitch of the older rafters.

 

Of interest also is the Obelisk at Prideaux Place, cut and erected at the same time as the Temple, all brought down to Cornwall by boat from Bath to Padstow harbour. The obelisk had been moved during the garden re-arrangements but had since disappeared. When garden clearance was being completed on the upper portion of the Colonel's Walk, at the upper edge of the Deer Park, a sunken area was discovered, where garden rubbish had been burnt in the past.  The sunken area was revealed, on clearance, to be an ancient well.

 

The well was walled, sloping down from the main level of ground. In this well was found large pieces of stone. Cursory inspection gave an immediate recognition of the importance of the find. Profiles could be none other than those of the Obelisk and the pieces were removed. These have now been measured and photographed and a drawing made of the Obelisk, as it was made. It is a fairly simple matter to take the cost of the stone and relate it to the cost per ton supplied at the time, allowing for transportation, and then to calculate the approximate amount of stone remaining after construction of the seats and the Temple. The proportions and height may be gauged from Edmond's own drawing of 1738, which is carefully constructed in perspective.

 

From William Borlase’ Drawing 1758

 

William Borlase' drawing of 1758 shows the obelisk in a new position further from the House, but this is after the tenements, etc were purchased by the House in this corner.

A new gateway was formed, with the obelisk as a "landmark”.

In 1880, a tunnel was constructed, under the road, as a wedding anniversary present to the lady of the House, in order that she may ride directly to the Church of St. Petroc, instead of the walk by road and path. This pony and trap ride went through the Rock Garden and wooded area next to the Church. It must be assumed that the metal cramps and dowels had become brittle by this time, or perhaps the stone was damaged in a fall, or even that the stone was used in the construction of the tunnel itself.

 

RICHARD BROAD - FREESTONEMASON

Edmond Prideaux's cash book makes mention of Broad and Richard Broad freestone mason, some new information about Richard Broad recently came to hand.

 

WSRO 1719/24 Box Parish Settlement Examinations and Removal Orders

The Inhabitants of the parish of Box in the County of Wilts Appellts:

Between

The Inhabitants of the parish of St Peter & Paul in the City of Bath Respondts

Thomas Atwood Esq. Mayor of Bath, John Cogswell Esq. one of the Justices of the said City by an Order of Removal dated 27th May 1747 under their hands & Seals Upon Examination of Jane the wife of John Broad and remove John Broad, Jane his wife and Clementina their Daughter to the parish of Box aforsd - See the Order.

Note. John ran away & left Jane & her daughter therefore they were sent to Box with the Order.

The Appellant Case

John Broad was born at Box in the year 1726 his ffather Richard Broad living there. About the year 1729 Richard removed with his wife & family to the parish of Widcombe & Lyncombe in the County of Somerset there took a Room & worked with Mr Allen at his Quarries & was about a year & half after he came to Mr Allen sent by him to work at Lord Peterboroughs, but his wife dying in the year 1731 he placed John his son at nurse where he was Two or Three years during which time John his son continued at nurse & Richd paid for it. About the year 1737 Richd married one Alice Boucher who rented a House at Combe in the County of Somerset of Mr Allen of £15 a year where he continued renting it about five years during all which time his son lived with him Then Richd removed about the year 1742 to Widcombe & Lyncombe aforesd & rented £11 a year for One year & three quarters of a year & in the year 1748 he removed to the parish of St James in Bath & rented a House of £20 a year. ....

To Prove all the Circumstances & Ffacts as above stated Call Richard Broad.

Bridgwater Removal Order. 1747 July 14.

DJP Summary Richard Broad 1726 living at Box - son John Broad born there.

1729 removed with wife & family to Widcombe & Lyncombe (Bath), Somerset, worked with Mr Allen at his Quarries.

1730 Mr Allen sent him to work at Lord Peterborough's

1731 wife died.

1737 married Alice Boucher who rented a House at (Monkton) Combe

of Mr Allen of £ 15 a year. 1742 removed to Widcombe & Lyncombe & rented £11 a year for One year & three quarters of a year & in the year 1748 removed to the St James parish, Bath & rented a House of £20 a year.

 

 

 

 

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