Sunday, March 10, 2013
Allen, 1st Earl Bathurst (1684–1775) was part of the circle at the heart of English high culture in the 18th century. He was a friend of the poet Alexander Pope, and the fact that one of Pope's celebrated poems is the Epistle to Bathurst has ensured him a place in the history of poetry. One thing that helped cement the friendship of Pope and Bathurst was an interest in gardening and the layout of country parks.
Next to his house in Cirencester, Bathurst laid out a remarkable park – the first park in which long straight rides extend through trees, crossing at rond points like the directional lines engraved on old maps and charts. The whole thing goes on for miles, with the ranks of mature trees stretching into the distance and the rides leading to distant vistas – the central ride aligns perfectly with the tall medieval tower of Cirencester parish church.
The current Earl Bathurst keeps this extraordinary place open to the public, so that walkers and horse riders can enjoy the landscape. Dotted here and there are interesting structures – a lodge with a round tower, a monument to Queen Anne with the monarch's statue atop a tall column, a hexagonal pavilion, and this tiny classical building, Pope's seat.
Pope's seat is at first glance a fairly standard bit of Georgian classicism with pediment, niches, and urns. But just as Pope's poetry, apparently so demure in its couplets, can leave seemliness and predictability far behind, so this little building bucks the trend somewhat. Those rusticated stones breaking into the bottom of the pediment; the irregular urns; the rather jazzy banded masonry all make this building stand out. It was just the thing to give shelter to a poet who wanted to rest and admire the view. Just the thing for us too.