As you travel around the countryside deep in Surrey, you don’t expect to find a Turkish Tent perched up on a ridge with extensive views across the countryside, but here it is, a short distance from the Grecian Temple of Bacchus.
The Turkish Tent, now reconstructed in robust long-lasting materials as one of the many landscape features of Painshill Park, was the last stop on their tour of the gardens where visitors spent time relaxing and taking in the view with tea (Turkish perhaps) or other refreshments.
The Hon Charles Hamilton created the picturesque garden around the lake with its bridges between 1738 and 1773, each building carefully positioned to gain the best views. Hamilton was the 9th son of the 6th Earl of Abercorn. He acquired Painshill in 1738 and set about creating one of the early picturesque landscapes – the new fashion moving away from the formal gardens of the previous century. When he ran out of money in 1773, he had to sell the property and Painshill thereafter had a chequered history with some additions and improvements by Sir William Cooper and his wife in the 19th century, until in 1948 the estate was split up and sold and the landscape and its picturesque features became decayed and neglected.
Salvation came in the form of Elmbridge Borough Council who in 1980 bought a substantial portion of the original estate and set about restoring the landscape and its many features with the establishment of a charitable body, the Painshill Park Trust.
In 1998 the achievements at Painshill was recognised by an Europa Nostra Medal for the “Exemplary restoration from a state of extreme neglect, of a most important 18th century landscape park and its extraordinary buildings“, and today the gardens are available to be enjoyed by all.
Things do not stand still. The vineyard is of course new and this year’s grapes will be picked by volunteers in September, with the wine made from them available in 2022.
The only downside came in the 20th century when the park was neglected and the Gothic Tower gained a modern electrical friend…. Obviously beyond the ability of the Trust to remove, it is to be hoped that some day this great beast might disappear underground.