21 December 2010

Get Inspired: Dogmersfield Park

The garden house at Dogmersfield Park, a great Hampshire estate. John Fowler's country house, The Hunting Lodge, was one of several follies on the property. Image originally published in Country Life, 27 April 1901.

A few recent emails about John Fowler's famous country house, The Hunting Lodge, led me to pick up the spade of research and go a-digging. One hears so much about the iconic British decorator's longtime Hampshire hideaway but almost nothing about the estate it once graced, Dogmersfield Park.

Fowler's immensely charming second home, for many years now a residence of interior decorator Nicholas Haslam, was built around 1740 or around 1770, depending on which scholar, book or historical document one prefers to believe. What is unquestionable is that it was constructed as one of several follies decorating the landscape around the Palladian mansion at the heart of Dogmersfield Park, not far from the village of Odiham. At least one source states that The Hunting Lodge, an eye-catcher of eccentric loveliness, was nothing more than a fancy-fronted cottage for a gamekeeper, which is good enough for me until the issue can be further clarified. And as for the main house?

Dogmersfield Park, Odiham, Hampshire, England. Image from Country Life, 27 April 1901.

Seat of the Mildmay baronets and constructed in 1728, Dogmersfield Park — gutted by fire in the early 1980s and now renovated as a Four Seasons Hotel —was the subject of a deep, admiring profile in Country Life on 27 April 1901. Among the enticing photographs is one depicting a handsome pedimented stone garden house. Located behind the mansion at the end of a broad gravel path known as the Long Walk and flanked by ivy-clad, red-brick walls, it is a dream of a structure, apparently erected in the nineteenth century by Major Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay, 6th baronet (1853 — 1916). Or so the Country Life article infers. Crowning the two spacious arches that form the entrance is a curvaceous broken pediment ornamented with blocky obelisks capped with spheres. The interior of the garden house looks most inviting; a built-in painted-wood settee fills the three solid sides, with a large rectangular table parked at the center. The walls appear to be lined with encaustic tiles, and accenting the entrance, here and there, are glazed-ceramic Chinese garden stools.

I'd build garden house of Dogmersfield Park if I had the money. Though entirely out of painted wood, which would give it an American twist, don't you think?

The handsomely weathered garden house at Dogmersfield Park today, showing that its nineteenth-century tiles and painted settee remain in place. Photograph © Allan Soedring of Astoft.co.uk and used with permission.