The Temple in Wanstead Park is situated at the northern edge of the grassy area known as The Plain, adjacent to the two keepers' lodges. It is a Grade 11 listed building. Perhaps the most impressive view of the building is gained on entering the Park proper from the west end, perhaps via Reservoir Wood, passing the Shoulder of Mutton Pond and then along the north edge of the Heronry Pond until the gate in the fence at the bottom of Warren Road track is reached. Through the gate and ahead, the Temple is seen at the end of a double row of sweet chestnut trees.
The appearance now is not what could be seen when the Temple was first built. When that was is not certain, though it is estimated that it was about 1750-60 that the building without the side wings was built. An estate plan of 1779 shows the two side wings added, and the Ordnance Survey map of 1863 shows the additional extension to the south.
It seems that the building has had a variety of uses. The map of 1779 identifies ther building as a "poultry house". In 1815 it it is shown as "Keeper's Lodge, Garden Pheasantry, etc." The building has lower and upper rooms; the entrance from the front or west is the more grand, via a four-columned portico into the upper central portion of the building. The more utilitarian rooms on the lower floor are entered from the back. The upper floor, then, would have been used as a summer garden pavilion, whilst the lower rooms would have been used by gardeners and keepers. Subsequently, the upper floor has been used as a committeee room and more recently for other functions, whilst the lower floor has been used as a keeper's house. The 1901 Census shows the Temple to be occupied by Robert Puffett (Epping Forest Keeper), and his wife Mary, and George Pavely (Park Keeper), his wife Emma and son Arthur. More recently the Temple has been used for display, information and administration purposes.
In March 2002, MoLAS excavated the depression in the fenced area to the south of the Keeper's lodges. This depression was known to have been a pond which existed until the late 19th or early 20th century. An excavation was also undertaken just to the west of the pond, nearer the Temple, where a circular underground brick structure had been found during recent groundworks on the renovation of the Temple. (see below). The structure was thought to be probably an ice house, broadly contemporary with the Temple. (photo)
Major refurbishment work was carried out on the building, finishing in the summer of 1995. Later, a series of work was undertaken on the gardens of the Temple, which lie to the west. In the early 1990's, a double avenue of sweet chestnut trees was planted running westwards from the white picket fence of the Temple towards the Heronry Pond. To enable a better view of the Temple from the tree avenue, a large red oak tree - the only one in Wanstead Park - in the NW corner of the Temple gardens was cut down - much to the dismay of some local people. In 2000, the familiar picket fence was removed and a metal replacement was installed. This was something in the style of those which might surround a large estate's "parkland". Shortly afterwards it was painted a dull green colour. At the same time the "footprint" of the garden was extended some metres westwards, with a bowed shape being introduced at the west end, and the rhododendrons that had mainly been outside the gardens now became enclosed inside. These plants and the old white picket fence can be seen on the photograph above, taken just before the metal fence was erected.
In mid February 2002 closely-spaced holly plants were planted just inside the garden fence on the north and south sides. At the beginning of March 2002 a notice was put up outside the Temple informing of further changes. This read: "Work will soon be taking place to clear the Temple Garden of rhododendron and other trees and shrubs as part of the long-term restoration of the landscape of Wanstead Park. The garden is being cleared back to grass. At a later date an easy access path will be installed and sweet chestnuts will be planted (as in the Avenue)". On March 4, the rhododendrons that can be seen in the photograph were uprooted - including the one on the right foreground that was so old it was almost a tree. The tree most dominant in the photograph (just to the right of the Temple portico) - the only copper beech in the Park - was also sawn down. This followed the only specimen of red oak in the Park, also in the Temple gardens, some years previously.
In August 2004 it was noted that most of the hollies that were planted in 2002 were no longer present. However a specimen of Yucca on the lawn just to the front right of the Temple entrance that had been cut down in 2000 was once again visible, as was another at the south-east corner of the garden. A nice find at the same time was a good patch of Harebells in the gardens - not previously known.
For a photographic record of the recent changes to the Temple Gardens, Click Here