Throughout the centuries there have been castles, great and small, for animals as diverse as goats and guinea pigs, deer and dogs, cows and bees, pigs and horses, as well as bears and even salmon. Thus cone-shaped homes were provided for doves in 1742, while in 1883 a Grecian temple with tapering Egyptian windows was built for pigs in Yorkshire. A red sandstone elephant with a castle on its back was designed for bees in Cheshire in the 1800s, while at Exton in Rutland, a c18th-century Gothic-arched cattle shelter topped with a pinnacled dovecote, enhances the park in which it stands.
With such architects as William Kent designing a cowshed, as well as Sir John Soane devising classical 'canine residences', these buildings are not mere curiosities; John Nash applied himself at his most picturesque to a dovecote, while Capability Brown was commissioned to create a classical menagerie and Henry Holland designed an elaborate Chinese Dairy. Rather than just laugh-a-minute novelities, these buildings are the happy results of the British passion for both architecture and for animals – of indulgence in unrestrained and often unnecessary extravagance, simply for the love of building and their beasts.
When designing for animals, architects and their patrons could realise their wildest flights of architectural fancy; the inhabitants could never complain, however idiosyncratic their dwelling – as George Eliot wrote in 1857, 'Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms' – allowing the builders' imaginations to flourish unbridled, often with scant observance to architectural convention.
Architecture for animals has been and still continues to be a tremendous British tradition. Palaces for Pigs – fully illustrated with striking photographs by the author – celebrates this tradition, telling the fascinating stories behind the buildings that housed animals and the monuments that commemorated them.
1. Sport & Speed
2. Plate & Platter
3. Adored & Adornment
4. Death & Decoration
Lucinda Lambton is a writer, photographer and broadcaster. Other books include: Vanishing Victoriana – on the unexpected and all too often undervalued 19th century architecture; Temples of Convenience – the best selling history of the lavatory; An Album of Curious Houses and Lucinda Lambton's A-Z of Britain – the best selling elaboration of the twenty six television programmes written and presented for the BBC.