The grounds at West Wycombe Park are among the finest and most unique 18th Century gardens surviving in England today. The park is a perfectly preserved rococo landscape garden, complete with statues and temples inspired by Classical Architecture from both Greece and Italy. Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd. Baronet originally commissioned the gardens in the early 18th. century, with the help of Thomas Cook, a pupil of Capability Brown. He also used other architects to design the various temples and follies as he extended the gardens, and Nicholas Revett duly completed the famous Music temple on the island in the 1760s. He also managed to acquire a Spanish galleon and somehow it was brought overland from the Thames at Maidenhead and kept on the lake with its complement of cannons and complete with a live in Captain on board. He used it to stage mock naval engagements for the amusement of his guests.
Humphrey Repton was later brought in to advise, and he immediately took a dislike to various features, such as the Temple of Venus and the statue of William Penn which sat atop Sawmill House. The Temple was destroyed and the statue removed following his visits. It was Sir Francis 11th. Bt, the father of Sir Edward who is currently living at West Wycombe today, who embarked on an ambitious restoration programme in the 1980s. He asked the famous classical architect, Quinlan Terry, to come up with a design for the Temple of Venus as depicted in original paintings which hang in the house, and subsequently rebuilt it with the help of the National Trust. Sir Francis also managed to obtain a copy of the original statue of William Penn, which now sits outside the Philadelphia Hospital in Pennsylvania, USA and he again sits on Sawmill House in all his splendour.
The lake is entirely man made, created from the nearby River Wye in the form of a Swan. There are several springs within it that in turn fill it with its characteristic chalk filtered water, producing its gin clear appearance. The lake is host to an enormously diverse range of wildlife including all manner of invertebrate and insects through to coots, swans and many ducks. The lake and the approachable parts of the river are well stocked with both brown and rainbow trout. Sir Francis, 11bt, also rebuilt Edward’s bridge across the Wye, again basing the design on the original wooden bridge that was on the lake. It was completed in time for Sir Edward’s 21st. birthday in 1985.
In the late Georgian period many new species of trees and flora from around the world were introduced which Horace Walpole described as, giving the ‘richness and colouring so peculiar to the modern landscape.’
The park still contains many follies and temples; the Temple of Music is on the island of the lake and was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Amongst the many other temples is the Temple of Apollo otherwise know as the Cockpit Arch because of its previous use as a venue for Cockfighting. More recently, the late Baronet introduced some structures that break the classic theme such as the Gothic style boathouse on the lake and a Gothic Chapel.
The park comes alive throughout the year thanks to its wonderful gardens; they are the perfect place to entertain guests. In particular the grassy bank that slopes down from the house to the lake creates a perfect natural amphitheatre for large public events such as classical music and firework concerts. The grounds provide a perfect romantic setting for any wedding, and can cater for very large corporate events as well.