Given to us by The Duchy of Cornwall
The Duchy of Cornwall very generously gave the Whiteford Temple to the Landmark Trust in 1984. It was originally a summer-house for Sir John Call's Whiteford House at the foot of the hill, which was built in 1775 after his return from India as a wealthy man. We do not know the date of the Temple itself; on one of the Coade-stone panels on the front is the date 1799, but Baring-Gould in his biography of Sir John in 'Cornish Characters and Strange Events' says that Sir John lost his sight in 1795 and he would have been unlikely, after that, to put up a building the main point of which is the view to be enjoyed from it.
It is possible that the Temple was built some years before and the panels were added to it. That on the left, which has India and America inscribed on it, clearly refers in some way to Sir John's career, depicting a goddess of conquest or exploration, perhaps.
Tradition says that the Temple was built to celebrate the coming of age of Sir John's eldest surviving son, William; a fete was held, and there was dancing. The panel on the right, with its harvest goddess, refers to the season of William's birthday at the end of August, but in 1799 he was only eighteen. It may be that a tradition of celebrating his birthday had grown up before that and it certainly lasted into his old age: in 1847 Sir William's niece (he succeeded his father as 2nd Baronet in 1801) recorded in her diary that they spent the evening dancing there.
There are other unanswered questions concerning the Temple. There is no record of the architect but Alastair Forsyth, who has researched the history of Whiteford House, thinks that the most likely candidate is Philip Stowey, a gentleman architect from Devon who with his partner Thomas Jones drew up designs for Bodmin Gaol under Sir John Call's patronage. It was probably Stowey, too, who enlarged the Manor House at Launcells, paid for by Sir John, and who also, therefore, designed the new reredos in the church there, recorded as being given in gratitude for completing the building work without accident.
A short history of Whiteford Temple
The full history album for Whiteford Temple
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Monday 13th February 2014