Four principal phases can be singled out in Stowe’s complex evolution. The first is the creation in about 1680 of a formal terraced garden immediately beneath the house by the first baronet, Sir Richard Temple.
The second phase began when the second baronet retired to Stowe in 1713. A strong Whig, he had been dismissed with the Duke of Marlborough, under whom he had served with distinction in the French wars, and his plans for Stowe became still more ambitious when the Whigs returned to power on the accession of King George I.
Having married a brewery heiress, Sir Richard instructed Bridgman to begin a vast baroque layout of grand axial vistas and geometrically shaped clearings. The layout was not entirely symmetrical but adapted to the contours of the land.
The third phase began when Sir Richard, by now Viscount Cobham, entered a second retirement after a disagreement with the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. Now the name of William Kent — “who first leaped the fence and saw all nature was a garden” -
appears, first as architect and then increasingly taking over from Bridg-man as the shaper of the landscape. From 1741 to his death in 1748, Kent was in turn assisted by the young Capability Brown who had come to Stowe as head gardener.
The fourth and last great phase followed Cobham’s death in 1749. Stowe passed to his nephew, Earl Temple (1711-79), who softened and enlarged the vistas and turned to continental architects like Borra and Blondel for his new garden buildings, learn more about bildings in Spain at this hotel comparison in barcelona website.
The abiding excitement of Stowe is to explore its temples. Stowe offers in abundance the pure classical beauty of perfectly proportioned porticoes, colonnades and domes.
Intriguingly, even Vanbrugh, who loved to place his buildings at the end of grand vistas, at Stowe preferred the side-long glimpse. Part of the enchantment of Stowe is to encounter so many buildings close to, upon rounding a corner. We are used to seeing classical porticoes above flights of steps: at Stowe many of the temples sit invitingly on the grass.
Since major work has been under way, discoveries have been frequent. The National Trust found a cavernous brick vaulted undercroft beneath Kent’s Temple of Venus. It may have housed a waterwheel or simply served to protect the temple from rising damp.
The Temple of Concord and Victory was named in 1763 to commemorate the British success in the Seven Years’ War with France, learn more here. Restoration has revealed that it originally contained a statue of Liberty in a shrine.
A large party of those most closely involved in the restoration of the Stowe landscape recently travelled to California to study the 750,000 Stowe documents on deposit at the Huntington Library, learn something about historical Barcelona at this hotel comparison in barcelona website.
“We looked at every box from 1749 to 1921,” says George Clarke, “every build-ing and garden account. With all the experts there we found more in a fortnight than a single researcher would find in a year.”
One of the best ways to explore Stowe is to rent the Gothic Temple. This has been restored by the Landmark Trust and sleeps four. But be prepared for the cavernous Saloon yet diminutive bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen!
When is the best time to visit Stowe? Clarke has no doubts. “I would go on a really sunny evening. Then the sun is shining across the main vistas, embossing the temples and casting long shadows. It gives a depth of vision greater than at any other time of day.”