The Chinese House
The North Walk path forms part of Thomas Anson's layout, and its original state was serpentine and gravelled with wide grass verges and flanking beds of shrubs and rare trees interspersed with antique sculpture. It leads to the Chinese House, completed in 1747 and probably the first of Thomas Anson's garden buildings.
The design for the Chinese House was taken from the pencil sketches of Sir Piercy Brett, Admiral Anson's second-in-command on the Centurion. It must have been constructed shortly after the Admiral's return, making it one of the earliest buildings of Chinese influence in the country, a precursor of the Chinese 'Pavilion' at Kew. The watercolour by Moses Griffith, 1780, shows the outside of the Chinese House looking very similar to its present appearance but coloured pale blue and white. The colour scheme within survives, with its pale green canopy, gilt monkeys and alcoves with red lacquer fretwork and gilded details.
The Chinese House was built on an island in an artificial canal, with a boathouse attached. It was reached by a pair of bridges of Chinese design. This arrangement was altered during the rerouting of the Sow after the flooding of 1795 which left the Chinese House standing on a little promontory with only one bridge, rebuilt in iron, leading to the newly made island. The bridge, painted a bright Chinese red, was erected in 1813 by Charles Heywood.
In 1885 the contents of the Chinese House, the plaster ceiling, four painted mirror pictures, fret tables, rushbottom chairs and porcelain were removed to the house for safekeeping. The planting hereabouts in Thomas Anson's day included clumps oflarches, known as 'Indian Trees', but these have all disappeared. Nevertheless, the planting round the Chinese House is still deliberately oriental in feel, with tree peonies, bamboo, azaleas, Viburnum davidi, Osmanthus delavayi, Rodgersia aesculifolia, Ligustrum quihoui and Ligustrum lucidum.
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