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The Boycott Pavilions

Stowe: The Course and North Front

The Boycott Pavilions are so named for the village that once existed just to their west. Though they appear to be identical as they flank the Oxford Avenue entrance to the estate, each has had a slightly different history and purpose. The eastern Pavilion, on the right in the photograph below, was completed in 1729 to the plans James Gibbs published the previous year. Its purpose was to punctuate the end of two walks that came together at the newly-extended corner of the garden -- Warden Hill walk to the southeast and Nelson's Walk to the northeast. Like the Lake Pavilions, it was open, and it provided views along each of the walks.

The Boycott Pavilions from the Oxford Bridge
The Boycott Pavilions from the Oxford Bridge

The western Pavilion, finished in 1734, was from the beginning designed as a residence. In fact, its northwestern façade looks very much like that of a Georgian townhouse. It was built for Colonel Samuel Speed who, according to the third issue of Bevington's Templa Quam Dilecta series, "died aged forty-nine in 1731 having served under Sir Richard Temple (later Lord Cobham) from 1707, first in his Regiment of Foot and then in his Royal Dragoons where he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1729. . . . In providing for a fellow officer, Lord Cobham was following at a higher rank the example set by the Duke of Chandos at Canons," who lodged eight of his sergeants.

The East Boycott Pavilion Both Pavilions originally had a very different profile than that depicted here. Perhaps inspired, as Bevington believes, by Vanbrugh's nearby Pyramid, the Pavilions were topped by identical wide-based octagonal obelisks that began just above the four pediments and doubled the height of the building below. This steep roofline was replaced in 1758 with the present dome and cupola combination, perhaps, as Bevington suggests, because "Earl Temple's classical predilictions did not favour such startlingly baroque composition."

The interior of each building is 24 feet square. The eastern Pavilion had niches in each of the corners, occupied, again according to Bevington, by life-size bronze-leaded statues of Cicero, Faustina, Livia, and Marcus Aurelius. Although these were removed by 1805, the building remained an open pavilion until the 1950s, when the School converted it to a house, as the photograph above left clearly shows.

The Oxford Gate now located on the rise to the west across the Oxford Water was originally located between the two Boycott Pavilions. Although the Oxford Bridge was not built until 1760-61, thereby allowing access to the estate from the west, the Western Boundary Drive curved around the western perimeter of the garden from the Corinthian Arch to a point just below the Pavilions. The Gate, designed and built by William Kent sometime before 1732, served two functions: it acted as a formal entrance to the estate and it kept the deer out of the garden and in the park. The Gate was moved to its present position in 1760 when Earl Temple extended the Oxford Avenue westward to Water Stratford.

To see a virtual reality panorama with a 360-degree view from between the Boycott Pavilions, click on the following link.

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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,