Charles Bridgeman (1680-1738) & Stowe

Charles Bridgeman succeeded Wise as the Royal Gardener.  His most famous achievement in landscape design is the famous garden at Stowe under Bridgeman's direction since 1713.  This masterpiece of landscape design was added to later by Kent and Capability Brown.

Bridgeman stands midway between Le Notre and Capability Brown in garden style.  In the 1720's Kent took up landscape gardening in what is called the painterly manner.  His most notable painterly garden is Rousham in Oxfordshire.  Bridgeman prepared the main lines of the garden in the 1720s, preparing the way for Kent's work in the 1730s.  The painterly manner attempted to evoke something of the theatrical qualities of the landscapes of Poussin and Claude.

For the Complete history and guided tours of Stowe, clicke below:


Stowe is a landscape garden with political meaning.  On the one hand, it celebrates the solid classical foundations of eighteenth cenury society, as embodied in the Neo-Palladian building and the numerous Neo-Palladian garden monuments and follies.  On the other hand, in its free and open treatment of garden space, Stowe also embodies the freedom which eighteenth century theorists associated with ancient British (Saxon) principles.

But the political meaning of Stowe is sharper and more specific still: it represents opposition politics through alligorical monuments.  A large valley called the Elysian Fields lies between two ridges.  On one ridge sits the Temple of Ancient Virtue (below), designed by Kent in 1734, which exhibits lifer-size statues of Homer, Lycurgus, Socrates, and Epaminondas.  Facing it but from lower ground stands the the Shrine of British Worthies (below), also by Kent, exhibiting busts of sixteen national heroes, including modern figures like Shakespeare, Locke, Newton, and Pope as well as men  of old like King Alfred.  The Shrine of British Worthies literally looks up towards the Temple of Ancient Virtue in a powerful demonstration of reverence for classical ideals.  For a while there was a third building nearby, the Temple of Modern Virtue, a ruin that allegedly satirized Sir Robert Walpole, the Whig Minister of State whom Cobham, Pope, Swift, and many other Tory writers loved to hate.  The Temple of Liberty, by Gibbs (1741) is in the Gothic style associated by architects and landscape designers with ancient British ideals.

View of House from North

View of House from South

Temple of Ancient Virtue

Temple of British Worthies


Palladian Bridge, Copied from Lord Pembroke's Bridge at Wilton