The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 11 Inns of Court

Dutch influence on Temple gardens

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Though the French fashions in gardening of Charles II.'s reign do not seem to have affected the Temple precincts, yet the Dutch influence that came in with William and Mary made itself felt. A small garden was specially set apart for the Benchers, and done up entirely in the prevailing style. A piece of ground between King's Bench Office and Serjeants' Inn was made use of for this. It had been let to the Alienation Office, but after the Great Fire the Temple resumed the control of it, and finally did it up and replanted it for the use of the Benchers. It was known as the "Benchers'," the "Little" or the "Privy" Garden, and great care, attention, and money were expended on it. Turf, gravel, and plants were bought; a sun-dial put on the wall; orange trees set out in tubs; and a fountain erected in the middle. This fountain must have been the chief feature of the Garden, and from the immense amount of care it required to keep it in order, it seems that it was one of those elaborate "waterworks," without which no garden was then complete. Such fountains were made with secret arrangements for turning on the water, which dropped from birds' bills, or spurted out of dolphins or such-like, with an unpleasant suddenness which gave the unwary visitor a shower-bath. Other fountains played tunes or set curious machinery in motion, or otherwise surprised the beholder. From the descriptions, this one in the Benchers' Garden doubtless concealed some original variation. It consisted of a lion's face with a copper scallop shell, and a copper cherry-tree with branches, and perhaps the water dropped from the leaves. One payment in 1700 occurs for "a new scallop shell to the fountain, for a cock and a lion's face to draw the water out of the fountain, and for keeping the fountain in repair, �12." The copper cherry-tree was painted, and perhaps the Pegasus-the arms of the Inner Temple-figured in the strange medley, as the cost of painting the tree and "gilding the horse" are together paid to the man "Fowler," who had charge of the fountain. The "best way to bring the water" had to be carefully considered for these "waterworks" which Fowler was designing and carrying out, and it evidently was brought up to the pitch of perfection required of a fountain in those days. There was also a summer-house with a paved floor, and an alcove with seats. Altogether, even without the glories of the strange fountain, the little enclosed Dutch garden must have been an attractive place. [A Bencher is member of the governing body ("the Bench") of one of the Inns of Court .]