A picture of Roger's Seat was sent by one of our members, Clifford Parrish, with the remark “I wonder how many of the people sitting here know they are sitting in a fireplace?”. It seems improbable, but Derek Hudson in his book ‘Holland House in Kensington’ says that the seat is in the fireplace of the harness room of the old stables. Briefly we pictured Rogers reciting his poetry indoors, snugly beside the fire on a winter’s evening, but there is no evidence for this. The lines
"Here Rogers sat, and here for ever dwell
were written by the third Lord Holland in 1812, the same year as his factotum, Bonaiuti, designed and built the formal garden then known as the Portuguese Garden (though later renamed the Dutch Garden when Portugal fell out of favour with the British). It seems likely that demolishing the seventeenth century stables except for the arches, the fireplace and the granary (which was later to become the garden ballroom) was part of Bonauiti’s scheme. If Rogers had taken advantage of the seat in the garden the first year it was available, Lord Holland might well have been moved to write his couplet.
Incidentally note that it is “sings” not “sang” as it is sometimes misquoted. Rogers lived on for many years after 1812.
Peering today round the back and sides of the seat shows that the fireplace is built from bricks, now crumbling, and only partially faced with concrete. So there could be no question of moving it without complete rebuilding and it seems as if the fireplace is still in its seventeenth century position.
Princess Maria Lichtenstein’s ‘Holland House’ has an engraving of the seat made in the 1870s looking remarkably as it does today. There are two armchairs instead of a bench and ivy instead of the present Russian Vine, but the lines across the facing at the back are in exactly the same position. [Winter 2007]
You may have noticed four new lime trees planted to continue the line of the brick arches outside the Belvedere. They are currently a little awkward looking but during the next few years will be pruned to form pleached arches in the traditional manner. We have long thought that the brick arches stopped abruptly and it was Christopher Wood in ‘H is for Holland’ who suggested that a solution might be to continue them in limes. The brick arches are thought to be one side of the nineteenth century stable block and can still be seen incorporated into the Orangery and Belvedere.
There has been some argument whether the arches were ever longer than at present or whether the stables just ended at the present position. Your secretary was therefore quite excited to come across the original of this illustration in the Local Studies Section of the Public Library. Once she had been able to take her attention from the charming depiction of mowing grass in the Victorian fashion, she counted at least seven, maybe eight, arches in the background. There are now only five and so the ones shown must have stretched to the long wall on the north of the Dutch Garden. Furthermore, the arches are all clothed in ivy, giving the green look that the limes will have. Perhaps the picture will persuade English Heritage to allow us to plant ivy again for a more authentic look which would also provide nesting sites should we ever be able to entice sparrows to the park again. [Summer 2007]