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The Oxford Bridge

Stowe: The Park

As Michael Bevington points out in the second issue of his Templa Quam Dilecta series, the Oxford Bridge, which was built in 1761 to span the Oxford water for the approach of the Oxford Avenue from the southwest, is of a classical design in spite of its rusticated stonework.

The Oxford Bridge

"Its closest precedent," Bevington claims, "is an ancient Roman bridge, partially rebuilt, spanning the River Bacchiglione at Vicenza. The three arches are of a similar size, the central one being slightly larger and so causing the characteristic hump in the middle which is accentuated by the angles of the two parapet walls."

The Bridge's parapets are decorated with eight urns, the two pairs at each end most likely having been salvaged from the Sleeping Parlour, a building by Vanbrugh in the Sleeping Wood that was demolished about 1760. These urns sport grotesque faces on their lower circumferences. Bevington suggests that "they rank among the most delightful and typical examples of Vanbrugh's style of work at Stowe."

Oxford Bridge Urn

The combination of classical design and picturesque and whimsical appearance is another example of the tensions that may be found throughout the garden between art and nature, between reason and emotion, between the beautiful and the sublime.

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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,