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The Chinese House

Stowe: Lamport Fields and the Japanese Gardens

The first few decades of the eighteenth century brought with them a growing interest in the far East. This interest came to full flower in the artistic style of chinoiserie, which resembles the rococo in its intricate patterns and elaborate decoration. Bevington notes that the Chinese House at Stowe was the first building in England constructed in the Chinese style. It appeared by 1738 in the northeastern part of what is now the Elysian Fields, near where the Seasons Fountain stands.

At the time, there was a rectangular pond in that area, and the Chinese House stood on stilts in the middle of it. The Seeley Guidebooks show engravings and include descriptions that indicate that the House was reached by a wooden bridge adorned with Chinese vases. According to Seeley, the interior housed "a Chinese Lady, as if asleep, her Hands covered by her Gown." The exterior was painted with Chinese scenes by Francesco Sleter.

A painting on the Chinese House A painting on the Chinese House

Within ten years Lord Cobham removed the House and filled in the pond as he refashioned of the northern part of the Elysian Fields and began to develop the Grecian Valley. The Chinese House was taken to the family estate at Wotton, where it stayed until 1957 when it was moved to Ireland. The National Trust bought it in 1992, and it has been relocated at Stowe in the lower part of Lamport Fields below the Japanese Gardens.

The Chinese House

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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,