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Pegg's Terrace and
Warden Hill Walk

Stowe Landscape Gardens



Location

Pegg's Terrace and Warden Hill Walk together form the southwest boundary of the gardens. Pegg's Terrace is the raised walk that follows the line of the south ha-ha between the Lake Pavilions and the Temple of Venus. Warden Hill Walk, also raised -- the southern part of it serves as a dam for the Eleven Acre Lake -- follows the line between The Temple of Venus and the Boycott Pavilions to the north. The area is bounded to the east by the Eleven Acre Lake and the Home Park.


Buildings and Monuments

A Map of Pegg's Terrace and Warden Hill Walk


History

The Survey reports that the first record of this area appears in 1633 and mentions meadows near the village of Boycott. Later, in 1700, there is a record of four acres of meadow belonging to the vicarage of Stowe Church that was bounded on the "west by Boycot Lane, leading from Stow to Fynmer; on the south and east by Mr. Millers grounds, and on the north by Warden Hill Meadow." In 1717, Edward Halsey, whose daughter Anne had married Lord Cobham two years before, purchased Boycott Manor. He sold it seven years later to his son-in-law, and at that point Lord Cobham was able to extend his gardens to the west, which he did in 1725-1726.

Not only did the acquisition of these lands allow Lord Cobham to enclose the Home Park but, according to the Survey, it also allowed him to expand the garden eastward into the area of the Elysian Fields for at least two reasons: first, the old public road that had run up the east side of the gardens near the Church could be closed and rerouted along the southern and western side of the property; second, the old Stowe mill could be removed from where it was located to the east of the Octagon Lake because Boycott had a mill of its own that the estate could now use.

The southern boundary of the garden from this point on was a raised terrace with a gravel walk extending east and west from the Lake Pavilions and terminating in two bastions: Diana's Bastion on the east and Kent's Bastion on the west. This terrace was, according to the Survey, most likely named after either the daughter or maid of Richard and Margaret Earl, whose property adjoined this area. The western boundary of the garden, then, was a terrace that ran northward from Kent's Bastion toward the Boycott Pavilions. This was named Warden Hill Walk after the original name for the area. Both terraces were lined with a single avenue of elms, and both were enclosed in the ha-ha surrounding the garden. The Bridgeman plan of 1739 also shows a double row of trees outside of the ha-ha extending along the entire southern and western boundary.

The Eleven Acre Lake was created in around 1728 by damming the stream that exited from the Octagon Lake and flooding the valley at the foot of the Home Park. Two strips of land, one along each terrace, remained unflooded, and these were landscaped and built upon shortly after the lake was created.

The first of these buildings was Gibbs' Building, sited where the Queen Caroline Monument now stands at the western edge of the Home Park. At that time, there was a second terrace that ran parallel to Warden Hill Walk, starting eastward at the point where the dam ended and, after making a turn northward, leading toward the Pyramid. Gibbs' Building was located on the curve of this terrace. Bevington indicates that the building was started by 1726 and that from 1729 to 1734 it was surrounded by the busts of eight of the figures that would eventually be housed in the Temple of British Worthies in the Elysian Fields. Gibbs' Building was during this period known also as the Temple of the Worthies and the Temple of Fame. From it, across the Home Park and the Eleven Acre Lake could be seen the two other important buildings on Pegg's Terrace -- the Hermitage and the Temple of Venus.

In a large clearing along the Lake about halfway between the western Lake Pavilion and Kent's Bastion is the Hermitage, built in around 1731 to the design of William Kent, who was at work in the Elysian Fields at this time as well. The Survey suggests that the Stowe Hermitage is a copy of the famous one in Richmond, in which Queen Caroline placed busts of English philosophers. The Hermitage at Stowe has three niches inside, though there is no record of busts being housed there. The outside of the building is faced with rough stone, and it has a small tower. The Hermitage faces north toward the Rotunda across the Lake and the Home Park.

At about the same time Kent was busy with a much larger building on the western bastion that was named for him. The largest building in the western part of the garden, the Temple of Venus has a pedimented central block that is linked to two outlying blocks by curved arcades so that the entire structure is roughly semi-circular. The end blocks also have arches on their three outer sides. The building was named after the paintings on the ceiling of the central block which featured the goddess. In front of the Temple of Venus, where the gravel walks of the two terraces converged, stood a sculpture of Cain and Abel from about 1738 to 1752, when it was moved to the northern end of the Grecian Valley.

By 1735 the busts surrounding Gibbs' Building had been removed, and the building was named the Belvedere (literally "beautiful view" in Latin). At this time there was still a grove of trees between the two parallel terraces that was crisscrossed with a number of paths and that contained a number of cabinets. The largest of these was roughly square and had at its center a sculpture that the Survey suggests probably represented Roman boxers. This clearing was bisected by a path leading from the Belvedere to the southern Boycott Pavilion.

By 1763 Gibbs' Building was renamed again, this time as the Fane of Diana, and alterations were made to it. The four buttresses that had stood between the four arched entrances were removed and the roof was lowered. A statue of Diana was placed on the top. All of these changes were short lived, however, because in 1764 the building was dismantled and rebuilt at the northeastern end of the Grecian Valley as the Fane of Pastoral Poetry, where it remains. Queen Caroline's Monument was moved from the Queen's Theatre on the far side of the Rotunda canal to the Gibbs' Building site, where it remains.

Successive plans of the estate show that by 1777 the network of paths around both the Hermitage and Queen Caroline's Monument had been reduced and simplified. By 1797 the planting had been changed considerably. The rows of trees lining the avenues of Pegg's Terrace and Warden Hill Walk had been replaced by clumps or blocks of trees, and the double-rows of trees outside of the ha-ha had been reduced to a single avenue along Pegg's Terrace. A clearing had also been made in the westernmost area of the garden to open up a view between the southern Boycott Pavilion and the Rotunda. The sculpture of the Roman boxers had disappeared, though the walk on which it had been located, leading between the Boycott Pavilion and Queen Caroline's Monument, remained.

By 1843 the trees around the Hermitage had been thinned further and the number of walks reduced. The avenue of trees along Warden Hill Walk was also gone, and the area around Queen Caroline's Monument was further planted up. Throughout the rest of the 19th Century more coniferous trees were added to this area. By 1880 the double avenue of trees outside the ha-ha along Warden Hill Walk had been totally cleared.

In 1973, Stowe School's Silver Jubilee year, the avenue along Pegg's Terrace was replanted with plane trees. It is now known as the Jubilee Avenue.

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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, jtatter@bsc.edu