Stowe has been home to some of the most influential and renowned architects, landscape designers and gardeners of the last few centuries. Over the years each and every inch of Stowe’s estate has been painstakingly designed, developed, and lovingly curated. Lakes have been crafted by hand, monuments and temples were built as landmark structures, and ancient trees were planted carefully. The Stowe Gardens are not the work of just one individual, but instead a collaborative effort of countless members of the gardening industry.
The first real contributor to the Stowe gardens was a man named Charles Bridgeman. In 1711, Bridgeman arrived at Stowe for the first time. The house had only just been constructed and only a few small gardens were present surrounding it. Bridgeman teamed up with the renowned architect Sir John Vanbrugh (of Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace fame) and set to work of transforming the entire garden area. The Octagon Lake was created, trees around the South Front were planted and paths were built to create a lakeside walk. The estate grew by over four hundred acres by the time the two were finished. Whilst their ideas were still formal by today’s standards, the overall design of the garden opted for a then modern approach on classic concepts. Much of these designs can still be seen today despite years’ worth of retooling and reiterating the various designs around the garden.
Bridgeman is also known to have created the sunken wall border around the garden known as the ha-ha. This wall was originally intended to keep livestock out of the garden area. This sunken wall successfully blocks the animals’ entrance into the garden whilst also keeping the gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside intact.
Over the many years following Bridgeman’s time at Stowe the gardens saw a great number of renowned architects and landscapers spend their time there. Well known industry professionals like James Gibbs and William Kent worked their unique designs into the garden, most of which can still be seen by visitors today. Perhaps the most famous influence on the gardens, however, was that of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Brown is now famous for his naturalist designs that were utilised across the country in many gardens such as this one. Interestingly, Brown started his career at Stowe, acting as William Kent’s assistant. Brown’s natural talent saw him rise the ranks quickly; within no time at all, he was sculpting his own designs into the garden. His designs included sculpting the vast Grecian Valley area as well as smoothing the shapes of both the Eleven Acre Lake and the Octagon Lake.
Nowadays, the various influences can be seen throughout Stowe’s landscape. The Autumn Rambles trail takes visitors on a journey through the history of the gardens, visiting many different architectural landmarks along the way, including the Temple of Concord and Victory as well as the Fane of Pastoral Poetry. As its name would suggest, this trail is designed to be the perfect Autumn walk. Enjoy the astounding views and atmosphere as you walk along this relaxing trail.
For information on all of our current tours please click on the link:
Images © Eliza Ford