What a privilege it is to be able to walk around a garden that was created 300 years ago.
With an abundance of purpose built monuments, ornate bridges, waterfalls and Gothic temples you could be harsh enough to call it the Disney Land of the 18th century. However, this would not do justice to the workmanship and political and moral stories woven into the landscape here; I wonder if some of our modern tourist attractions will still be standing in 300 years time?
Various famous Garden Designers of the 18th century worked on the gardens, the most famous being Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. This resulted in the gardens being laid out in ‘The English Landscape Style’, which we now naturally think of as synonymous with large country estates. Before this the gardens would have been very formal with borders laid out in symmetrical patterns and having hedges or fences between the garden and the rest of the estate. The idea of The English Landscape Style was to create sweeping vistas and blend the surrounding countryside with the pleasure gardens.
Today we may think of a garden feature as a water fountain or pergola but if you were a rich Viscount in the 18th century then a garden feature may well comprise of a church, folly, monument or even, as in Stowe, a Gothic Temple. These building have been used at Stowe to create stunning views as you walk around the landscape. There are very few areas of the garden where you don’t catch a glimpse of some fabulous building or happen upon a long avenue with a classical temple as its focal point.
One monument of note is The Temple of British Worthies. It contains busts that themselves would be valued work of arts. Here they sit in a grand curved wall and look down on you as you marvel at their grandeur and muse their influence on our lives today.
The garden is set out so as to take you on a moral journey, weaving you amongst trees and around lakes that separate the vice and immorality of The Temple of Venus and the moral aspirational intellectuals at The Temple of British Worthies.
This garden is so grand and contains so much hidden meaning that this taster does not do it justice, I hope to return and bring you a ‘Stowe Gardens part two’ one day.