Moorish Pavilion at Kingham Lodge

The May 2018 sculpture show hosted the opening of our fabulous Moorish Pavilion in the centre of the garden. Chris wrote the following piece about it for our programme.

“Fifty years ago, while working in Spain, I first visited Granada. In those days Granada was a backwater with very few tourists. Early one April Sunday morning I pushed open the old wooden gate to enter the Generalife gardens of the Alhambra. I was alone. All the flowers of summer were blossoming, the sky was blue, the snows gleamed on the Sierra Nevada and dogs barked on the neighbouring hill of Sacromonte, where the gypsies were beginning to stir and light their wood fires. Down below in the town the bells of the churches were ringing. Beside me the rills of the garden gurgled and the fountains sparkled. The whole effect was magical, as near to Paradise on earth as it was possible for me to imagine. The Generalife, the garden of The Alhambra, was built as a Paradise garden for the last Sultans ruling in Spain, descendants of the Moors who had conquered most of Spain and much of southern France by 750AD and who united spain for the next 700 years. Through the Moors and the great university at Cordoba came much of the ancient Greek learning that powered the Renaissance in Europe. That visit left a lasting impression on me, and I have since returned with Delphie more than once. We share a passion for travel and an interest in other cultures. Together we have explored most of the Islamic countries round the Mediterranean including Syria, and further afield to Persia and India.

A decade ago the old barn that stood in the garden on the site of our new pavilion was burnt down in an arson attack. Shocking as this was to us all, it gave us the opportunity to re-think the site.The barn had been our party room while the children were growing up and we needed somewhere for family gatherings. The idea germinated that we might build a pavilion with a courtyard attached as a Moorish garden. Thus started the quest for planning permission, and, in parallel, for stone masons who could undertake the task. In India, beside the old palace in Dhrangadhra, I found a stone yard set up by the Rajah’s son to provide work for local people. There, cross-legged under a tarpaulin, stonemasons have cut and chipped for many months to carve the pillars and arches you see here today. The Gujerati sandstone was a good colour and texture match for our local limestone but much more frost resistant. In the Cotswolds other skilled craftsmen have worked through rare heat and much more cold and rain to assemble the pieces from India and incorporate them in to the walls built from local Sarsden stone.

Four years in the building, the plaster barely dry, the pavilion is being used in Art Weeks for the display of internal statues, but in future it will be used for family parties, possibly some chamber music and occasional charitable events. One of the two towers is a store for chairs and tables for the Pavilion, with a playroom/retreat space above it, and the other tower houses garden machinery, a WC, and above we’ve included a pigeon loft and boxes for owls and bats.

The capitol tops are copies of the capitols in the Court of Lions in the Alhambra at Granada. The white lions are copies of the ones round the fountain in that courtyard. The pillar spiral design is inspired by a different building in Andalusia. The interweaving design round the cornice and in the glazed tiles (made and decorated in Kingham) set along the aisles, is known as the “Breath of the Prophet” (a variant is known as the Breath of the Compassionate). Like all Moorish design it is geometric and avoids anything figurative. The only part of the overall design that is not Moorish is the lantern over the pavilion which is loosely inspired by Persian wind towers. The black lions were derived from the same measurements and designs as the white ones but carved in Africa by men who had actually seen what a lion looks like and rather charmingly went ‘off piste’ from their instructions!

The central courtyard is divided in to four by rills. This is the classic pattern in all Moorish, Persian and Islamic gardens and courtyards (known as the charbagh or chaharbagh). It is a layout based on the four (chahar is 4 in Persian and char is 4 in Urdu) gardens of Paradise mentioned in the Qur’an (Koran). The four sections are divided by flowing water. Genesis 2 refers to four rivers in Eden and other Biblical and Islamic texts refer to four rivers on earth and in the afterlife. More prosaically, in hot climates the sound of running water is relaxing and refreshing. In a Paradise there are garden fruit trees (symbolising fertility and fruitfulness), hence our lemon and olive trees, and the doves are breeding already.

We hope you will enjoy your visit and even capture a fragment of the magic I experienced when I first set eyes on the garden of The Alhambra.”