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Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Post written by Tony Grant, London Calling.

In 1754 David Garrick became the lessee first and finally bought the house, which was to become his villa beside The Thames.

Garrick's villa, 1783

It became his country retreat and the place where he and his wife entertained friends. He began to alter the original building, which had parts that dated back to the middle ages, and employed his friend Robert Adam to redesign the façade in a classical style.Capability Brown advised on the layout of the gardens. The Kingston to Staines Road runs outside the front of the house today and it did also in the 18th century.

Temple doorway. Image @Tony Grant

Garrick had a tunnel dug  from the front of his villa under the road to his gardens beside The Thames which today is called, Garrick’s Lawn. On this lawn, beside The Thames, Garrick had a temple to Shakespeare built. Inside was placed a very fine statue of Shakespeare designed by Roubiliac, another friend. When Garrick died, his wife Eva, gave it to the British Museum. A copy of the statue now has been placed inside the temple.

Garrick's dorric Temple. Image @Tony Grant

Garrick  added an orangery at the far end of the main garden which backs onto Bushy Park. Adam also designed the orangery in the main garden with a corinthian façade and classical entablature. Garrick owned much of the farmland, which is now Bushy Park. He also bought other houses in Hampton, including Orme House in Church Street, The Six Bells pub, later named The White Heart, Garrick’s Ait, the island opposite the temple and the villa and three other aits on The Thames. Just before his death, Garrick bought The Cedars, now called Garrick House, which you drive past on the Kingston Road.

The villa under wraps after the fire. Image @Tony Grant

In 2008 some work was being done on the villa when a fire broke out. The entire roof of the grade 1 listed building collapsed. The second floor also caught fire. It took ten fire engines to bring the blaze under control and save the shell of the house. It is now undergoing extensive rebuilding. The house is a symbol  of the English Theatre and must not be lost to the nation and the world.

David Garrick in Hamlet. Image @Wikimedia Commons

David Garrick came from humble origins in Leicestershire. His family were Huguenot immigrants who had to struggle and fight for their survival and success. Garrick  continued this need for success. He had an incredible talent as writer, actor and innovator. His greatness can only be measured by his influence on theatre and acting today.

Garrick Estate Auction, 1921

What is interesting is his need to acquire property and land, to have the best in architecture and to keep acquiring, throughout his life. Was this the sign of an inner drive to stay successful, to gain security, to not allow himself to revert to lowly circumstances? Was he a driven personality? This reminds me of another driven personality, Charles Dickens, who literally worked himself to death. He too saw property and one house in particular, as a sign to himself and others that he was at the top, that he had made it.

Tony Grant at Gads Hill. Image @Tony Grant

The house was Gads Hill in Kent just outside of Rochester and Chatham. After Dickens death, John Foster, a great publishing friend of Dickens wrote, “ upon first seeing it (Gads Hill) as he came from Chatham with his father and looking upon it with much admiration he had been promised that he might himself live in it or in some such house when he came to be a man, if he would only work hard enough.”

Gads Hill front door. Image @Tony Grant

Of course Dickens did work. He probably had more need to stay at the top than even Garrick. His father was notorious for getting into debt and had ended up in debtors prison. Cahrles Dickens had had to work in a blacking factory in almost slave like conditions. This affected Dickens for the rest of his life.

Ducks on the Thames. Image @Tony Grant

Both Dickens and Garrick were influenced greatly by Shakespeare. Garrick as actor and theatre owner. Garrick’s greatest performance was playing Richard III. Dicken’s house at Gads Hill was the very spot, in Henry IV part I, where Prince Hal waylays and robs Falstaff as a  prank or joke. Of course Dickens absolutely loved this connection. There is another rather obscure link with Garrick. David Garrick had a tunnel dug under the road in front of his villa to get to his garden beside The Thames. Dickens purchased the land on the opposite side of the road to his house at Gads Hill and had a tunnel dug in front of his house under the road to get to it.

Gads Hill tunnel. Image @Tony Grant

Dickens had a small wooden Swiss Chalet built on the other side of the road where, towards the end of his life, he wrote. Passing through a tunnel to the beautiful scenery of The Thames or to a place to work could be read as having deep psychological meaning I am sure.

Dickens's Swiss Chalet. Image @Tony Grant

David Garrick’s  villa can be seen as his badge of success. A symbol of all his striving and hard work.

Where do our middle class ambitions get us? Are we driven? Where have we come from and where do we want to go? Are we working like Garrick and Dickens to prove something? How desperate are we and are we happy with it? I wonder if Dickens was ever happy? Maybe in the heightened hyper reality that he achieved  in his live readings, but that was fleeting. He was driven, so was Garrick and are we?

Garrick's villa, 1824

I know this an odd request on this site but you never know who might read this stuff. To any Hollywood Super Star out there. You owe everything, your whole profession, to David Garrick. If you have some spare cash, go on, pay for the refurbishment of Garrick’s Villa. It could be your real contribution to the world.

Garrick's temple, sunset. Image @Tony Grant

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Copryright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Post written by Tony Grant, London Calling.

For four days last week, I was working in a school in Staines near Heathrow Airport. To get there from Wimbledon I had to drive past David Garrick’s Villa and his temple to Shakespeare, at Hampton on The Thames.

Garrick's Villa, 1783

David Garrick was an 18th century actor, playwright and owner of Drury Lane Theatre. He was innovative, and the forerunner of a new acting style. He was regarded as the greatest actor of his time and arguably is one of the great actors of all time. He had a profound interest in Shakespeare. It is easy to see connections between David Garrick and his career and the career and  driven personality of Dickens. Perhaps they are both a mirror in which we can see something of ourselves.

Garrick

David Garrick was the second son of Peter and Arabella Garrick. He was born at The Angel Inn in Hereford on the 19th February 1717. For a while he was the pupil of Samuel Johnson at the little school at Edial near Lichfield. In 1773 Garrick and Johnson went to London together both with little money to support them. Garrick at first worked as a salesman in his family’s wine firm. However he turned to playwriting and acting. He write a version of, “Lethe,” that was used by Henry Giffard’s company at Drury Lane. He then joined Giffard’s company and worked at the theatre in Tankard street in Ipswich. At first Garrick took the stage name of Lyddall. On the 19th October 1741 he played Richard III at Goodman’s Fields Theatre in East London. He was an overnight sensation.

David Garrick as Richard III, 1745. William Hogarth

His acting style was new and innovative. He began a more naturalistic style. Rather than use the exaggerated bombastic style that was popular. On 28th November that year he got rid of his stage name and began to use his real name. His real name appeared on the posters advertising, “The Orphan,” in which he played the character, Chamont.. As a sign of his meteoric rise to fame within two months William Pitt decalerd that the 22 year old Garrick was the best actor the British stage had ever produced. Garrick became the dominant force in British theatre from then on.

Drury Lane 1808

In 1747 with a new partner, James Lacey he took over the management of Drury Lane Theatre. For 29 years he directed repertory company in Europe. He developed new rehearsal techniques and discipline. His ideas included analysing characters, restoring the original texts of Shakespeare. Much of Shakespeare’s plays in the 18th century had been written in a bombastic and alliterative style. He didn’t always keep to Shakespeare’s original texts himself. He did tend to leave out bits and add bits to emphasise the character he was playing. Garrick was one of the leading playwrights of his day and wrote The Clandestine Marriage, Cymon, The Lying Valet and The Guardian. Garricks influence became the yardstick by which all other acting and drama was measured throughout Europe.

William Garrick and his wife, Eva Maria Vegel, by William Hogarth

In 1749 Garrick married the Viennese dancer, Eva Maria Vegel. They had no children and she outlived him by 43 years.They were so famous the crowned heads of Europe, the nobility and the leading figures of the London literary, art and social circles came to visit him.He owned residences at No 27 Southampton Street in Covent garden, in the Sdelphi, and his villa at Hampton on The Thames.You can imagine the elite of Europe coming to Hampton to visit garrick at his Thameside retreat, walking by The Thames, visiting his temple to Shakespeare and rowing out to the aits (river islands) Garrick owned along his stretch of the river to have sylvan parties in a beautiful natural surround.

Garrick's temple close up. Image @Tony Grant

Garrick gave up Drury Lane and made his last performance at Drury Lane during a series of final performances in June 1776. He died in his house in the Adelphi on 20 th January 1779. He was buried at Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey.

View of the Thames from the Temple. Image @Tony Grant

Gentle reader: This is the first of two articles about David Garrick by Tony Grant. The second will concentrate on the actor’s beautiful house and temple on the Thames.

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