The Social Hermit

Among the lovingly restored features of Painshill Park in Surrey is its hermitage.

Painshill is celebrated as being one of the best examples of an 18th century landscape garden still in existence in England.  The original garden was created by Charles Hamilton and features numerous unusual follies, of which the hermitage is one.

It was in the 1740s that Charles Hamilton originally advertised for an occupant for his hermitage and appeared to have discovered someone to fit the bill.  The job description required that the hermit must not shave or cut his hair, nor must he talk to a single other living soul for a period of seven years.  Upon completion of the seven-year stint, the hermit would be duly rewarded for his stoicism and self-denial.

The hermit is a romantic icon of long-standing.  It is one that I cannot deny has a certain appeal.  The hermitage at Painshill is furnished with a sparse bed, wooden stool, and a simple chair and desk, with a stunning view out over the surrounding green countryside of hills and trees.  Throw in a spot of Wifi connectivity and it would be an inspirational place from which to compose a few blog posts.

However, I am no fool to romance.  I recognise that my own hermit dreams would quickly vanish as soon as I wanted a hot bubbly bath and a frothy latte.  The physical pull of creature comforts is often stronger than the cerebral appeal of frugal isolationism.

And so it proved for the original hermit of Painshill.  So much for spending seven years on his own: after three weeks, he was discovered fraternising with the locals in the bar of the nearest pub and was summarily dismissed.

© E. C. Glendenny


Travel writer, E. C. “Easy” Glendenny, can only take so much of her own company.

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