This vocabulary of naturalistic ornament, found here and throughout the house, is most likely to have been devised by Lyttelton himself and his wife (although she departed before the house was complete), in collaboration with his architect friend Sanderson Miller and the other virtuosi who advised on the creation of the house. Cornforth has suggested however that the craftsmen, plasterers and carvers may have been given a relatively free hand in the detailed work. But the crucial fact remains that Hagley was above all a haven for poets and writers whose owner had a passion for landscape gardening. Lyttelton had no great success as a politician, but much more as a man of letters. He was a friend of Pope and Shenstone, Tom Jones was dedicated to him by Fielding, and James Thomson allowed him to correct The Seasons in which there is a long passage in praise of Hagley. The park at Hagley appears to be entirely his brain child, although perhaps inspired by his Temple relations’ activities at Stowe. Within he populated it with a whole repertory of ornamental buildings and monuments strategically placed: the ruined castle (for whom Sanderson Miller supplied designs for the furniture: ‘they are not to be common chairs, but of a Gothick form’), an Ionic rotunda, the Prince of Wales’s column, a Palladian Bridge, a statue of Venus, urns commemorating Pope and Shenstone, seats to Thomson and Milton, and of course the famous Greek Doric Temple designed for him by James Athenian Stuart.
The park was of course famous, and much described, not least by Horace Walpole who wrote to Bentley in September 1753:
‘You might draw, but I can’t describe, the enchanting scenes of the park: it is a hill of three miles, but broke into all manner of beauty; such lawns, such woods, rills, cascades, and a thickness of verdure quite to the summit of the hill, and commanding such a vale of towns, and meadows, and woods extending quite to the Black Mountains of Wales…Then there is a scene of a small lake, with cascades falling down such a Parnassus ! with a circular temple on the distant eminence ! and there is such a fairy dale, with more cascades gushing out of rocks ! and there is a hermitage, so exactly like those of Sadeler’s prints, on the brow of a shady mountain, stealing peeps into the glorious world below ! and there is such a pretty well under a wood, like the Samaritan woman’s in a picture of Nicolo Poussin ! and there is such a wood without the park, enjoying such a prospect ! and there is such a mountain on t’other side of the park commanding all prospects, that I wore out my eyes with gazing, my feet with climbing, and my tongue and my vocabulary with commending !’.
It is just these ‘watery’ natural/artificial features of lake, cascade, hermitage, and well – not to mention the grotto, which seems to have eluded Walpole that give us our clue as to the genesis of the Gallery furniture.