I was saving this entry until June (I’ll explain why later), but Benedict sent me such a fantastic picture with his question that I’ve escalated it to now.
On a rare morning of no responsibilities my partner and I went for an unstructured ramble around the not so familiar environs and – blow me down – gor blimey – I have never seen this before , but it’s obviously been in Blackheath since 1800s. A Georgian Pagoda!!! What on earth is/was it?
The Phantom replies:
Astoundingly, just put the definite article in front of it and that’s exactly what it is – THE Pagoda, Benedict. And no – it’s not been there since the 1800s – it’s been there since the 1700s – 1767, in fact. It was built for the Duke of Montague at a time when everything Oriental was fashionable. It was called chinoiserie – though that term was used for everything that came from the East, not just China.
In fact, if we’re being honest, they didn’t really much care about authenticity at all – it was the flavour 18th Century stylists were after, not the precise style. All they knew was that all the things they liked – from fabulous silks and exquisite vases to the tea being loaded from massive ships at East India Dock – came from this exotic all-purpose ‘Orient.’ Many country houses have a ‘Chinese’ room, decorated with dainty wallpaper, screens, bamboo furniture and porcelain.
And they built their summer houses – for this was what The Pagoda originally was – a grandiose garden shed for Montague House which, if memory serves, was at the South West corner of Greenwich Park, next door-ish to Rangers House – in what they assumed was oriental style, too. They used all the bits of Western building they liked, and just added funky bits and bobs, like curly roofs and moon windows that would make it look Chinese/Japanese/Whatever.
I have heard that the Blackheath Pagoda was used by saucy Princess Caroline of Brunswick though whether this was before or after the Prince Regent turfed her out of Montague House I don’t know. It was certainly used as a hunting lodge though, by one Henry Scott, third Duke of Buccleuch.