Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Lost in the Woods

The lane got narrower and narrower. 'It's down here somewhere', my friend said, looking increasingly worried, 'I'm sure it is'. Suddenly, on a tight bend, there it was, backed up against dense woodland. Given the surrounding trees, and the fact that it appeared to line-up with neither track or road, its setting was incongruous. Until we got the Ordnance map out and found that this early eighteenth century Triumphal Arch was once able to be viewed as the crowning glory on a Kent hilltop from Mereworth Castle, over half a mile to the north. The wood is a comparative newcomer, preventing the eyecatcher from fulfilling its original landscaping purpose.

Mereworth is a dead ringer for the Villa Rotonda, Palladio's famous, and highly influential, villa sitting above Vicenza in Italy. The architect was Colen Campbell, who was doubtless told by his client, John Fane, as Mereworth took shape in 1723: 'Whilst you're here Col, just knock-out some gate lodges will you, oh, and a triumphal arch of some sort, you know the sort of thing'.

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