One would suppose that such an occasion would be clearly remembered by Mr Hart; confusingly, however, the Ordnance Survey 6-inch map of 1895 (re-surveyed in 1893) does not show the Pigsty at all, although it does appear on the 1914 edition (re-surveyed in 1910). Moreover, during the 1990 restoration the date ‘October 1906’ was found carved on an apparently original roof timber. So the Pigsty may date either from the late 19th or the early 20th century – we cannot be sure which.
One reason why it took two years to build, according to Mr Hart, was because Squire Barry changed his mind frequently about the details. He tried out several alternative columns before settling on the final version, for instance. Perhaps this is why the building has a somewhat hybrid quality – neither fully Ionic nor Doric nor Tuscan, but containing elements of all these three styles of Classical antiquity.
Mr Hart attributed the building of the Pigsty to Squire Barry’s dislike of the Victorian practice of building pigsties in the backyards of cottages, often right next to the back door. A family that kept a pig could enjoy not only an improved diet, but a little extra income from the sale of piglets as well. As there were two farm cottages on the Fyling Hall estate, the Squire provided accommodation for two pigs – Large Whites, a local breed.
We can only guess at his reasons for building the Pigsty in the style of a Grecian temple. We know that he was passionately interested in the island of Corsica, and wrote a book about it; perhaps he was inspired by some of the Etruscan and Greek buildings that have survived there since the days of antiquity. At another of his farms he built a cowshed in dressed stone with carved church windows and louvres, and an arched doorway with an iron-studded door like that of the church; the stalls were all of carved oak and looked almost like pews. One may conclude that he simply enjoyed these quirky buildings, and took pleasure in the confounding of sightseers who discovered that his temple was not for picnics but for pigs.
The design was carefully thought out. The building was divided into two by a central partition, each half with its own feeding trough, which was filled from the outside through a hinged shutter. For extra ventilation there were shuttered windows at the back as well; the shutters and the front gable were pierced so that air could circulate freely. In the portico floor were chutes down which water could be poured into two drinking troughs in the field below. It is not clear how the pigs reached their homes from the field. It is said that they went up a wooden ramp, now long vanished, and so on to the platform at the side of the building. Others have claimed that the pigs firmly refused to go up into the sty at all, and stayed stubbornly in the field.
Almost no other Landmark has attracted as much attention as the Pigsty – or so many (admittedly irresistible) feeble jokes; it has been extensively photographed, filmed and written about in the media. It seems that pigs, and anything to do with pigs, are deeply embedded in our national consciousness as a source of endless amusement and fascination.