Book review: Palaces for pigs

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Palaces for Pigs
Lucinda Lambton (English Heritage, £25, *£22.50)

The best things in life are unexpected. Lucinda’s Lambton’s new book is a survey of many of the most unexpected, and original, moments in architectural history: buildings and monuments designed for animals all around the British Isles. As she writes: ‘When building for animals, the builders’ imagination could flourish unbridled often with scant regard for architectural convention.’

Among such historic delights as a temple for terrapins in Surrey and a sandstone castle for bees in Cheshire are works by Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam, Humphry Repton and others. The author is on classic form in this amusing and instructive anthology, which revisits a subject she first explored in Beastly Buildings more than 25 years ago. She includes many attractive estate buildings associated with country sports or animal husbandry, from the picturesque Gothic hunt kennels at Milton, still in use after 200 years, to the dreamy Adam-designed fishing temple at Kedleston, with associated bath and earth closet.

There are numerous elegant and strange stables, dovecotes and dairies, exceptionally pretty birdcages, and such oddities as the newly restored monkey pagoda at Culzean. Most moving, perhaps, are the monuments to beloved animals: the 18th-century obelisk at Mount Edgcumbe erected by a grieving countess to a pet pig called Cupid; a tablet to a 19th-century tame trout; and, most endearingly, the enchanting headstone carved in 1980 by Rory Young in memory of Lord Neidpath’s beloved labrador, who revelled in the memorable name of Old Smelly.

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