“On sloping mounds, or in the vale beneath,
Are domes where whilom kings did make repair;
But now the wild flowers round them only breathe:
Yet ruined splendour still is lingering there.
And yonder towers the prince’s palace fair:
There thou, too, Vathek! England’s wealthiest son,
Once formed thy Paradise, as not aware
When wanton Wealth her mightiest deeds hath done,
Meek Peace voluptuous lures was ever wont to shun.”
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by Lord Byron [Canto the First XXII]
I think the above verse applies to the beautiful palace and gardens of Monserrate. At least we were told in numerous books and leaflets that Lord Byron was smitten by Monserrate on his visit here in 1810 and reminisced about it in his poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’.
Monserrate was probably my favourite place of the whole trip. It had everything: a palace with a library, exotic gardens(but with an English Rose Garden), a tea house, British connections, literary connections and to top it all we visited in beautiful weather!
The Library as it is today
In the exotic gardens
The Tea House
“William Beckford ordered this waterfall to be constructed between 1794 and 1799. Beckford, a writer who enjoyed great fame at the end of the 18th C, visited Portugal and fell in love with Sintra, where he rented this property from Gerard de Visme.” [On a nearby information board]
“This arch was built by William Beckford … We think that it could represent the entrance of the property which, at the time, was not enclosed. Beckford wrote his most famous book, Vathek, an oriental tale, in 1786 before his first visit to Portugal. Vathek was the hero of the book which is considered by many to be somehow autobiographic” [From nearby Information Board]
Gerard de Visme an English merchant holding the concession to import Brazilian teak was responsible for the construction of the first palace. Later, William Beckford, writer, novelist, art critic and eccentric lived here. There’s a waterfall named for him and an arch for his most famous character; Vathek.
Sir Francis Cooke bought the property in 1856 and had it restored by the English architect James Knowles, who employed a thousand workmen. In the 1850s the artist William Stockdale created a botanic garden there with plants including rhododendrons from all over the world – Mexico, Australasia, Japan and the Himalayas.
Brass jugs in the kitchen – could be Below Stairs at any National Trust property!