The Shell House, Leigh Park
The Shell House
Nestled in the prettily landscaped Leigh Park gardens, is a hexagonal grotto-styled folly built from flint and pebbles by the park's former owner, a nineteenth century Orientalist.
Sir George Thomas Staunton second baronet (1781–1859), was a Orientalist, traveller, politician and patron of horticulture.
His connections with China began when he was 12 years-old and he accompanied his father, a diplomat to China where he learnt Chinese and went on to study the language and literature.
After returning from China he bought Leigh Park, near Havant in 1819, built hothouses for his rare flowers and exotic fruits, an ornamental lake and a number of magical follies.
Based on the design of the Chichester Cross, the Shell House is a intricate hexagonal structure built in 1828 from flint and pebbles and decorated with shells from Hayling Island.
Sir Staunton used it to show off some of his unusual treasures from gems to a stuffed crocodile!
It now holds a number of plaques commemorating his ancestors. If you peek in through the gates you can still see some of the memorials on the wall.
If you walk around the rest of the park you can also see some of Sir Staunton's other follies; the remains of a Chinese bridge, a little fort and the Beacon - a small domed round temple built from the remains of Purbrook House.
Leigh Park Gardens form part of the 1,000 acre Staunton Country Park which is home to the South Coast's largest glasshouses and ornamental farm with animals including sheep, pigs and peacocks.
last updated: 20/01/2009 at 14:20
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