Gothic Temple

Stowe, Buckinghamshire - Sleeps 4

About this Landmark

Set in one of the world's most famous landscape gardens, this folly at Stowe is a stunning Landmark with a spiral staircase, roof terrace and open grounds to explore. The gothic windows provide vistas of the monuments, lakes and temples in this eighteenth-century landscape.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • MicrowaveMicrowave

Beds 2 Double

  • Sleeps 4
  • 4 nights from £576
  • equivalent to £36.00 per person, per night

See the changing light on this extraordinary landscape

This Temple, built in 1741, is one of the last additions to the garden at Stowe, formed for Lord Cobham by Charles Bridgeman and his successor, William Kent. That same year, Capability Brown arrived as gardener, to begin his own transformation of the landscape. It feels like an immense privilege to live within this extraordinary landscape, if just for a few days, witnessing the effect of the changing light on the momuments and enjoying the thrill of the scenes that Capability Brown created. Inside, the rooms are all circular with the main vault of the central space brightly painted with heraldry. The bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom are squeezed into the turrets while the sitting room occupies the main space, which soars to the gilded dome above.

One of over 40 temples and monuments

Lord Cobham dedicated his new temple, designed by James Gibbs, ‘to the Liberty of our Ancestors’, for which the Gothic style was deemed appropriate. Inside, the rooms are all circular, with moulded stone pilasters and plaster vaults – the main vault of the central space is gorgeously decorated with heraldry and mosaic. To be on the first floor gallery is an important architectural experience; and at the top of the staircase there is a belvedere with stone seats and a fine view over this former demesne of Lord Cobham and his successors, which the National Trust now looks after. Stowe School gave us a long lease of the Temple in 1970. It does have modern conveniences, if in rather surprising places! We hope that the splendour of the Temple and its surroundings will compensate those who stay here – it is one of the finest landscape gardens in the world.

Floor Plan

'With not a soul in your view from the belvedere, it is a very different privilege, and to my mind a richer one, that staying in a smart country house hotel.'

Financial Times

Map & local info

The Gothic Temple stands in the beautiful parkland of Stowe overlooking the fine landscape gardens. From the top of the Temple, enjoy the panoramic views of the lake, Palladian Bridge and many of the extraordinary temples in the gardens.

Located in the nearby historic market town of Buckingham is the iconic Old Gaol, a purpose built prison which now serves as a museum telling the history of the town itself and rural life. Just to the north of Stowe, experience the thrills of motor racing at the Silverstone Circuit.

Take a tour around Claydon House and Sulgrave Manor, two nearby historic houses offering lots of fun activities and wonderful grounds to explore. 

For more ideas and information on things to see and do during your stay at The Gothic Temple, take a look at our Pinterest page.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Gothic Temple
Stowe, Buckinghamshire - Sleeps 4
Clear directions

‘I’m glad the Gothic Temple exists, so ordinary people can stay in places as extraordinary as this.’

‘It has proved to the children that the world does not come to an end when there is no telly.’

From the logbook

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes
  • How is the property accessed?

    From a track via the Stowe estate roads.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Milton Keynes – 17 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    There is parking for two cars adjacent to the property.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are electric night storage heaters.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a bath.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    The stairs are steep, spiral and narrow.
  • Can I access the roof?

    Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children and dogs are supervised when on the roof.
  • Is this a property for hardier visitors?

    Yes, this property is hard to heat in winter.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There are large open grounds. Stowe is owned by the National Trust, there are many footpaths through the grounds which run near to the property.

    Booking and Payment

  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact [email protected]
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.

Lord Cobham’s Temple of Liberty

Stowe has been copiously written about since 1700, both in official guides and in the impressions of its numerous visitors. Now in the care of the National Trust, the gardens are becoming ever better known and understood. Lord Cobham’s Temple of Liberty, as this Gothic building was provisionally known, was built in 1741. It was one of the last additions to the famous garden formed by Charles Bridgeman and his successor, William Kent. The designer of the Temple was James Gibbs, who had with Kent, succeeded Vanbrugh as chief architect at Stowe.

It seems that it stood empty for a few years but by 1748 it had its painted glass installed (much of it from Warwick Priory) and the domed ceiling, with the arms of Lord Cobham’s ancestors, was completed after his death in 1749.

Gibbs’s original design, which survives in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, was altered by the addition of the pepperpot lanterns on the lesser towers and the crocketed pinnacles on the main tower - additions which helped reduce the heaviness of the building. The new Temple was seen very much in ecclesiastical terms. The circular rooms in the towers were called chapels in contemporary guide books and many actually called it the Gothic Church. Entering it in the 18th century must have felt very much like entering some dusky early Christian basilica, which explains why Horace Walpole described it as the 'Venetian' or 'Mosque Gothic.'

As befitted its churchlike character, the Temple was only sparsely furnished and, unlike many garden pavilions, it is unlikely that it was used for picnics and entertainments as Stowe had plenty of other buildings for that purpose. It was mainly intended for brief visits in the course of the long tour of the gardens, to include taking in the magnificent views from the top of the tower.

Perhaps with the decorative scheme for the ceiling in mind, the name subtly changed in 1745 'to the Liberty of our Ancestors.' To make clear who these ancestors were Lord Cobham moved the seven Saxon deities, from whom he traced his family, from their original setting and arranged them around his new Temple where they stayed until 1771-2.

The landscape around the Temple evolved too. Walks of varying degrees of complexity were cut through the wood to the north and on the east Bridgeman’s original straight walk and bastion disappeared under Capability Brown’s more informal style. The Temple’s wooded setting survived even when the garden was extended further east in the 19th century and it is only quite recently, with the loss of trees planted in the 18th century, that the Gothic Temple has come to have its present more open setting.

Gothic for us today is largely an architectural label, but in the 17th and early 18th century it had a much more potent meaning. Gothic architecture was equated with the Anglo-Saxons, who had come to signify Liberty and Government by Constitution, as a force against the despotism of the Roman world. Furthermore the Reformation was interpreted as the North’s rescuing of humanity, for the second time, from the tyranny of Rome. So Gothic came to imply all the moral and cultural values summed up in the term Enlightenment. This whole amalgam of ideas found a home in the Gothic Temple.

Such a declaration was also underlined by the choice of a triangular ground plan as this shape had come to be particularly associated with Medieval Romanticism, with overtones of a fight against oppression, both political and religious.

Used by the School as an Armoury

In 1966 a programme of repair for the garden buildings at Stowe was launched. A survey had already been carried out, by the architect Hugh Creighton, to assess both the work that was required and what it would cost. It was clear from the start that the School itself could not possibly be expected to achieve this task on its own. Accordingly the recently-founded Landmark Trust offered to take on a lease of the Gothic Temple and to pay for its restoration and conversion to a most unusual dwelling.

The building had, since the 1920s, been used by the School as an Armoury. A wooden hut had been added on the north side to provide storage space and most of the first floor windows had been blocked. There were already plans to move the Armoury nearer to the main school buildings, but it was some time before this was accomplished and work did not start on the Gothic Temple until 1969.

First to be dealt with was the stonework. The walls themselves were in reasonably good condition and only required repointing, but the parapets and pinnacles needed more attention; several of the stones were broken or damaged by decayed iron ties. The turrets also had to be partly taken down and rebuilt, with some new stone incorporated. This work was carried out with care and skill by Messrs Norman Collison of Bicester, the builders for the Temple's restoration.

The original roof had been replaced earlier this century with one of bitumen, which was beginning to wear out. This was taken off and a new slate roof laid instead, with new lead on the flat areas.

Traces could still be seen of the weather vanes on the tower pinnacles and old photographs showed that these had survived until quite recently. Using these and old prints five replicas were made and fixed in position.

The greatest effect upon the appearance of the building, after the removal of the hut, was achieved by unblocking the upper windows. There were some remains of wooden casements, but these were not original and were badly decayed. Newly-made steel frames were inserted instead, following the profiles of the openings.

The windows in the tower and turrets were blocked with masonry as part of the original design, pierced only with small quatrefoil openings. To make the turret rooms lighter, so they could be used as bedrooms, bathroom and a kitchen, it was necessary to open up the least visible of these. Once again they were fitted with simple metal framed casements. Some coloured glass survived in one bathroom window.

The central glass doors on two sides of the ground floor were another new introduction, again with the aim of making the building lighter and more agreeable inside. Luckily enough lead masks were salvaged, from the outer faces of the two solid doors they replaced, to make up a complete set on the remaining door.

Inside the Gothic Temple, apart from the work required for the conversion of the building such as introducing plumbing and electricity, the main task was the restoration of the painted ceiling under the dome, depicting the arms of Lord Cobham's ancestors. It was in poor condition, the plaster badly cracked and the paint itself decayed and flaking. It was most carefully and skilfully restored by Michael and Benjamin Gibbon in 1970.

The walls of the central rotunda had been painted in the colours of which traces remain, probably by the School. Because there was no trace of plaster on the walls, it was thought that they would not have been painted originally and Nattes's drawing of the interior, which was only discovered later, confirms this. Where the paint went straight onto the bare stone it was cleaned off and only where the surface was plastered was new paint applied. In some places rather messy pointing was revealed on the stonework. Although not original the mortar is quite old, which might indicate that the painting of the interior as a whole happened slightly earlier than was thought - in the late 19th century perhaps. The turret rooms were all completely redecorated.

The stone floors downstairs are mainly original, although some tiles needed replacing. On the gallery the original floor had been replaced with concrete, probably at the same time that bitumen was laid on the roof. In the two bedrooms the floors were raised to bring them nearer the windows.

The gallery balustrade is original, though painted in a new colour. The marks of the rifle name plates and fixings from Armoury days can still be seen on it. All the internal doors, like the glass outside doors, were fitted in 1970. The kitchen fittings were also designed by Mr Creighton, to make best possible use of the very restriced space.

The Gothic Temple is one of the very finest examples of the kind of building which the Landmark Trust was set up to help. It would be inconvenient to live in all the time and would require disfiguring alterations to make it less so (as even recent attempts to improve the heating sadly show). On the other hand it is ideally suited to short term occupation. Under these circumstances all the excitement of its architectural form can be enjoyed, without a lasting prospect of the practical drawbacks.

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.