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Hawkwell Field

Stowe Landscape Gardens


Hawkwell Field is the name given to the pasture area to the east of the Elysian Fields and separated from it by planting. Visually, Hawkwell Field is defined by the Queen's Temple to the north and the Temple of Friendship to the south. Its eastern boundary is defined by the track running north from the Palladian Bridge to the Gothic Temple. The Field is bordered on the north by the Grecian Valley and on the east by Lamport Fields. Its southern border is Diana's Bastion on the southern ha-ha.

Buildings and Monuments

A Map of Hawkwell Field


The Survey reports that "the first record of Hawkwell Field is as pastureland beyond Stowe Village, the highway, and the stream." Higher up and to the east, perhaps on the site now occupied by the Gothic Temple, was a windmill, dating from the 16th Century. The area continued to be used for farming until the first decade of the 18th Century.

According to the Survey, the first drawing to show the area was Charles Bridgeman's oblique plan (sometimes referred to as the "bird's eye view") of 1719-20. Because Hawkwell was outside the garden proper, there is little detail given to the area, "but field boundaries, houses, and water courses are lightly sketched in the background. It is possible to identfy the site of the Gothic Temple, a hill on which three hedges met." The entire area was enclosed by an inturned ha-ha, which can be seen clearly in the 1739 plan of the entire estate published by Sarah Bridgeman.

An anonymous visitor to the garden in 1738 described the Palladian Bridge as under construction near the southern end of Hawkwell. The Bridge served as the eastern boundary of the garden at that time, and it provided a passage over the Upper River, which runs west from the edge of the garden into the Octagon Lake. The Palladian Bridge is a copy of the original at Wilton House near Salisbury (built 1735-78), but James Gibbs, who is responsible for most of the buildings in this area of the garden, altered the design so that the one at Stowe could be crossed by carriages -- the original being a pedestrian bridge approached by steps. At this time the Palladian bridge also differed from its model in that the eastern side was a wall rather than a colonnade, and the wall was decorated with a sculpted relief by Scheemakers showing the four corners of the world bringing produce to Britannia.

While the northern half of Hawkwell Field continued to be used for pasture in the late 1730s, the southern half was being developed. The terrace walk that formed the southern boundary of the garden from the Temple of Venus on the west to the Lake Pavilions was extended east and terminated by a pair of iron gates. In front of these gates, according to the Survey, stood "a massive statue of the Roman Gladiator by Andrew Carpenter which corresponded to that in front of Venus, of Cain and Abel." To the south of this statue, in the center of a bastion that matches the one on which Venus is built, the Temple of Friendship was constructed. The Survey suggests that Friendship is likely to have been begun as early as 1737 because accounts for that year mention work on temples to Apollo and Diana, the latter being the original name of the Temple of Friendship.

The Survey suggests that the temple to Apollo mentioned in the accounts for 1737 was actually the structure built on the crest of Hawkwell Hill that, after being named the Temple of Liberty for some time, finally came to be called The Gothic Temple in reference to its architectural style. The account for roofing the Temple in 1741 indicates that it was nearly complete in that year. By 1742, visitors to the garden could enter Hawkwell Field from the Elysian Fields either by the southern terrace walk or by an entrance just north of the Temple of British Worthies. An informal walk from this entrance led up to the Gothic Temple, from which there were views to the south of the Palladian Bridge and the Temple of Friendship and to the east (outside of the garden) of Stowe Castle and the Keeper's Lodge (renamed The Bourbon Tower in 1808 in honor of the visit of the French royal exiles in that year). Around the Gothic Temple was planted a grove of cedars of Lebanon, only one tree of which remains.

By the mid 1740s the northern half of Hawkwell was being developed. Built as a counterpart to the Temple of Friendship to the south, The Ladies Building (or Temple of Female Friendship as it was also called) commanded a view from the very north end. The Survey suggests that this building was also by Gibbs because "it closely resembles a Garden House designed by him at Down Hall, Essex. Originally it had no portico or steps to the south and no circular portico to the north. It was raised on open groin arches [that is, intersecting barrel vaults], the piano nobile being reached from an internal staircase."

The Survey provides the following quotations from visitors to the garden in 1748, the first from Lady Newdigate and the second from The Marchioness Grey:

The Gardens are daily adding to. The Gothic Church is now complete in which Uniformity of Taste is more apparent than in any other building among the numbers here, the windows are painted glass some of which is extremely fine. The Ladies Temple is also finished, with which I cannot say we were much delighted.

The Temple of Friendship is reckoned the Best, but that of Female Friendship (Lady's Temple) is the best room, indeed the only good one. . . . The Gothic Building half church half Tower in appearance is the most uncommon and best in its way. It stands very high and expos'd but in return makes a good point of view, and has the finest prospect over the garden and country of any. It is built of Reddish Stone, and the windows are filled with painted glass, it looks quite over the Garden.

After 1748 Hawkwell underwent changes that removed much of its formality. In the 1750s, for example, the internal and external ha-has were removed, and the triangular area between the Ladies Building, The Gothic Temple, and Lord Cobham's Monument to the northeast of both was planted up. Within this plantation were laid out two straight and one serpentine paths. An account for 1764 mentions the building of a Saxon Altar, which the Survey assumes to be the site in the northern area of this plantation around which were placed Rysbrack's marble statues of the seven Saxon Deities. These statues had been located previously around the Gothic Temple, and had been brought there from the western side of the garden in the 1740s.

In the 1760s the Palladian Bridge and the area to the east were altered. In 1762 the Scheemakers relief was removed from the Bridge to be reused in the newly rededicated Temple of Concord and Victory in the Grecian Valley, and columns were erected on east side of the Bridge to match the west side. Landscaping was done to the area east of the Bridge between 1763 and 1765 -- the Upper River was lengthened and widened, and the tops of the banks were levelled.

In the 1770s alterations were made to both the Temple of Friendship and the Ladies Temple. According to the Survey, "alterations to Friendship involved the removal of the cupola and substantially raising the height of the attic walls, decorated by a row of ball-finials. The accounts of 1772 record pulling down and making good at the Temple of Friendship and in 1774 plastering columns and stuccoing. At around the same time Carpenter's Gladiator in front of the Temple of Friendship was relocated . . . . The removal of this massive statue opened up the reciprocal view back to the Ladies Building."

The Survey continues: "Alterations to the Ladies Building began in 1772 and this work, like that on Friendship, has been attributed to Thomas Pitt. The steps to the front (south side) were added with a portico and capital (by James Lovell). The balustrade was reused from Stowe House. In 1778 the north side facing over the Grecian Valley was altered by the addition of a circular portico, probably the work of Valdre. . . . In the 1780s the internal columns were introduced and in 1789 it was renamed the Queen's Temple, with plaster reliefs added by Charles Peart to replace the earlier paintings by Sleter. This [series of changes] was in honour of Queen Charlotte who had just nursed George III back to health."

In the next century, the alteration of the Octagon Lake in 1827 produced changes in the width and level of the Upper River. As the changes to the lake at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire flooded the lower levels of Vanbrugh's bridge, only on a much smaller scale, the changes to the Octagon Lake here put the springing points and a large part of the arches of the Palladian Bridge under water.

The planting in Hawkwell Field has remained relatively unchanged from the mid-18th Century to the present.

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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,