The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Stourhead Landscape Garden

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Stourhead, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Bart. - This celebrated place is so well known, that we shall make no attempt to describe it. Alfred's Tower is distinctly seen from Shaftesbury, and, indeed, from the rising grounds for twenty miles round on every side. Such towers are always sources of gratification in a country; they afford pleasure to every traveller, and in that respect, they are altogether more noble objects than those temples and other garden buildings, which afford pleasure to, or, perhaps, more correctly speaking, are seen only by, the occupier or visitants of the place. Stourhead may be characterised as a fine specimen of country residences of the old school of modern gardening, as well in the manner of laying it out, as in the style of keeping it up. There is a good deal of formality and quaintness mixed with fine natural features in this place; formality in the regular cutting of the undergrowths and hedges of laurels, which, as a lady who accompanied us observed, looked like beds of gigantic moss, and overgrown hedges of box; and quaintness in the continuance of the over-conspicuous and superfluously high stone bridge, and the numerous temples and statues. The obelisk, also, with the gilt sun over it, and the monastery with its spire-like chimney top, might be adduced in support of this opinion. However, the basis of the whole remains the same as it was originally; and with a certain degree of remodeling in the walks and in the undergrowths, for the place is rendered monotonous by the prevalence of laurel, and the addition of modern choice trees and shrubs, Stourhead might still hold its rank as one of the first in the island. The walks are everywhere too narrow, and too unmeaningly devious in their lines of direction; they are also too deeply sunk in the soil, though the latter may be a fault of neglect. The head of the water near the stone bridge should be concealed by low growths, and the bridge reduced to a low structure, because at present it is so conspicuous, as actually to prove a deformity in the landscape. [Editor's Note: Loudon's wish was granted: Stourhead was planted with rhododendrons in the gardenesque style he advocated. The work was underway at the time of his visit but (see next page) he was not happy with the way in which it was being done].