The Temple of British Worthies in Stowe Gardens

One of the most popular monuments in Stowe Gardens is the Temple of British Worthies which was built around 1735. It is also a touch controversial, as many visitors’ conversations mention the fact that “there’s only one woman”.  They're right, of course. Every one of the sixteen stone busts displayed is of a "male worthy" - expect for Queen Elizabeth I!

Plus, there is quite a lot of discussion about who’s included in the list of the British Worthies and whether they are worthy enough. It's a fun debate to have while wandering Stowe Gardens, and I’m sure we could all come up with a list of sixteen different names!

You get one of the best views of the Temple of British Worthies from the Elysian Fields just below the Temple of Ancient Virtue. On a calm, sunny day, you’ll seen the complete temple reflected in the water. It makes a wonderful photograph!

The Temple of British Worthies in Stowe GardensThe Temple of British Worthies in Stowe Gardens ©

Who's Included in Stowe Gardens' Temple of British Worthies?

We’ve taken photographs of each worthy and, as some of the inscriptions are difficult to read due to weathering, have transcribed each inscription into modern English. Some make quite interesting reading. Our worthies are in the order of left to right as seen in the photo above.

Alexander Pope in the Temple of British WorthiesAlexander Pope ©

Alexander Pope

Who uniting the correctness of judgement to the fire of genius, by the melody & power of his numbers gave sweetness to sense, & grace to philosophy. He employed the pointed brilliancy of wit to chastise the vices, and the eloquence of poetry to exalt the virtues of human nature; and being without a rival in his own age, imitated and translated, with a spirit equal to the originals, the best poets of antiquity.

Sir Thomas Gresham in the Temple of British WorthiesSir Thomas Gresham ©

Sir Thomas Gresham

Who by the honourable profession of merchant, having enriched himself, and his country, for carrying on the commerce of the world, built the Royal Exchange.

Inigo Jones in the Temple of British WorthiesInigo Jones ©

Inigo Jones

Who, to adorn his country, introduced and rivalled the Greek and Roman architecture.

John Milton in the Temple of British WorthiesJohn Milton ©

John Milton

Whose sublime and unbounded genius equalled a subject that carried him beyond the limits of the world.

William Shakespear in the Temple of British WorthiesWilliam Shakespear ©

William Shakespeare

Whose excellent genius opened to him the whole heart of man, all the mines of fancy, all the stores of nature; and gave him power, beyond all other writers, to move, astonish, and delight mankind.

John Locke in the Temple of British WorthiesJohn Locke ©

John Locke

Who, best of all philosophers, understood the powers of the human mind: the nature, end, and bounds of civil government; and with equal courage and sagacity, refused the slavish systems of usurped authority over the rights, the consciences, or the reason of mankind.

Sir Isaac Newton in the Temple of British WorthiesSir Isaac Newton in the Temple of British Worthies

Sir Isaac Newton

Whom, the God of nature made to comprehend his works.

Sir Francis Bacon Lord Verilum in the Temple of British WorthiesSir Francis Bacon Lord Verilum ©

Sir Francis Bacon Lord Verilum

Who by the strength and light of a superior genius, rejecting vain speculation, and fallacious theory, taught to pursue truth and improve philosophy by a certain method of experiment.

King Alfred in the Temple of British WorthiesKing Alfred ©

King Alfred

The mildest, justest, most beneficent of Kings; who drove out the Danes, secured the seas, protected learning, established juries, crushed corruption, guarded liberty, and was the founder of the English constitution.

Edward Prince of Wales in the Temple of British WorthiesEdward Prince of Wales ©

Edward Prince of Wales

The Terror of Europe, the delight of England who preserved, unaltered, in the height of glory and fortune, his natural gentleness and modesty.

Queen Elizabeth I in the Temple of British WorthiesQueen Elizabeth I ©

Queen Elizabeth I

Who confounded the projects, and destroyed the power that threatened to oppress the liberties of Europe; took off the yoke of ecclesiastical tyranny, restored religion from the corruptions of Popery. and by a wise, moderate, and a popular government, gave wealth, security, and respect to England.

King William III in the Temple of British WorthiesKing William III ©

King William III

Who by his virtue and constancy, having saved his country from a foreign master, by a bold and generous enterprise, preserved the liberty and religion of Great Britain.

Sir Walter Raleigh in the Temple of British WorthiesSir Walter Raleigh ©

Sir Walter Raleigh

A valiant soldier, and an able statesman who endeavouring to rouse the spirit of his master, for the honour of his country, against the ambition of Spain, fell a sacrifice to the influence of that court, whose arms he had vanquished, and whose designs he opposed.

Sir Francis Drake in the Temple of British WorthiesSir Francis Drake ©

Sir Francis Drake

Who, through many perils, was the first of Britons that adventures to sail round the globe; and carried into unknown seas and nations; the knowledge and glory of the English name.

John Hampden in the Temple of British WorthiesJohn Hampden ©

John Hampden

Who with great spirit, and consummate abilities, begun a noble opposition to an arbitrary court, in defence of the liberties of his country; supported them in parliament, and died for them in the field.

Sir John Barnard in the Temple of British WorthiesSir John Barnard ©

Sir John Barnard

Who distinguished himself in parliament by an active & firm opposition to the pernicious and iniquitous practice of stock jobbing; at the same time exerting his utmost abilities to increase the strength of his country by reducing the interest of the National Debt; which he proposed to the House of Commons in the year 1737, and, with the assistance of government, carried into effect in the Year 1750; on terms of equal justice to particulars & to the state; notwithstanding all the impediments which private interest could oppose to public spirit.

These, then, are the British Worthies as seen in 1735. Quite a few are as well known now as they were then. It's a pity later owners of Stowe didn't continue the procession by adding busts of the greatest minds of their age. It would make for a fantastic procession. It also begs the question: whose statues would we add in 2024?

Back ot the Temple of British WorthiesBack ot the Temple of British Worthies
Grey Hound Memorial in the Temple of British WorthiesGrey Hound Memorial

And don’t forget to go round to the back of Temple of British Worthies to read the longest inscription to Lord Cobham’s dog. There’s a path off Thanet Walk which allows you view the back of the temple and the largest memorial. What a shame there wasn’t a bust of the dog!

To the Memory



an Italian of good Extraction

who came into England

not to bite us like most of his Countrymen

but to gain an honest Livelyhood

He hunted not after Fame

yet aquired it

regardless of the Praise of his Friends

but most sensible of their Love

Tho he lived amongst the Great

he neither learnt not flattered any Vice

He was no Bigot

Tho he doubted of none of the 39 Articles

And, if to follow Nature,

and to respect the Laws of Society

be Philosophy,

he was perfect Philosopher

a faithful Friend

an agreeable Companion

a loving Husband

distinguished by a numerous Offspring

all which he lived to see take good Courses

In his old Age he retired

to the House of a Clegyman in the Country

where he finished his earthly Race,

and died an Honour and an Example to the whole Species


this Stone is guiltless of Flattery

for he to whom it is inscribed

was not a Man,

but a


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For more information on Stowe Gardens, opening times, and events please refer to the National Trust website here.


For more England days out return from our Temple of British Worthies page to the Monuments of Stowe Gardens page.