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The Story of Temple Newsam

The Landscape of Temple Newsam

We know from a famous 'birds eye view' of Temple Newsam, drawn around 1700, that at this time there were long, straight pathways and avenues stretching on either side of the house.  In front of the house were courtyards, housing  the service buildings such as stables, brewery, laundry and bakery.  


Black and white engraving showing  Temple Newsam house and grounds, with formal flower beds, vegetable beds and straight avenues. In the foreground are horseriders
Bird's Eye View of Temple Newsam, 1699

On one side of the house was a formal, private garden, with a beautiful fountain in the middle.  This garden would have been kept immactualately manicured.  A banquet house on a raised plinth at one end would have given a lovely view over the garden for the lucky guests invited to dinner parties.

As a whole, the landscape would have been very formal and at this time it was fashionable to have a strict symmetrical layout in estates such as Temple Newsam.  Nature would have been cut and clipped, with bushes and trees carefully shaped and neat flower beds designed in mirror symmetry. 

This rigid and overly controlled approach to landscaping was not to last however, and the grounds of Temple Newsam were dramatically transformed about 80 years later.  The only feature that survived this change was the long path known today as the 'Great East Avenue'. 


Picturesque Landscaping

At this time, it was popular for rich young men to go on a 'Grand Tour' - a lengthy trip around Europe lasting from a few months to a few years.   Just like we do today, the travellers brought back souvenirs - in this case cultural artefacts and artworks.  Italian paintings showing sun drenched natural landscapes were brought back to decorate the estates and to show off the wealth and worldly experience of the owners.   

 In 1762 Lord and Lady Irwin of Temple Newsam employed Capability Brown to redesign the grounds of Temple Newsam. 


Painted portrait of Capability Brown
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown

Capability Brown ( real name: Lancelot Brown)  was the most famous landscape architect working in the picturesque style.  

He drew up an ambitious plan for the transformation of Temple Newsam.   

Drawing of the layout planned by Capability Brown for the grounds of Temple Newsam
Capability Brown's Plan for Temple Newsam Estate

The map he drew shows how the strict symmetry of Temple Newsam's gardens and landscape was to be broken up, and replaced with large areas of grassland, dotted with clumps of trees, ponds and lakes.  The long, straight paths and carriageways were to be replaced with ones that wound gracefully through trees.  The formal flower beds would be ripped up and replaced with open grassland and a few flowering shrubs.

Lord and Lady Irwin were very enthusiastic about Capability Brown's plan for Temple Newsam and work began.  Unfortunately however, Lord Irwin died in  1778 , when the transformation was only half completed.


The Victorian Landscape

During the Victorian period, the large areas of parkland created by Capability Brown were perfect for sheltering game and Temple Newsam became a famous sporting estate, rearing huge numbers of pheasants and partridges for the shooting parties.

Black and white photograph showing a large lawned area with many, formal flowerbeds in different shapes and urns filled with plants
Temple Newsam South Gardens in Victorian Times

A formal flower garden was re-established, complete with an enormous fountain.


The Impact of World War Two 

During and after the Second World War, the Temple Newsam landscape was devestated by open cast coal mining, and images show a barren landscape.


Black and white photograph showing water filled pits in a scarred landscape with trees in the distance
Open Cast Coal Mine at Temple Newsam, Leeds

Temple Newsam Today

Today the landscape forming the Temple Newsam estate is protected and cared for by Leeds City Council.  As visitors explore the grounds, those with a keen eye can see the clues to the long and varied history of the land all around them.