“Celebrating 300 years of Capability Brown”
Discover the story behind Capability Brown’s Temple Wood by using this Walk through History’ as your guide to the historic woodland
Capability Brown designed the Temple Wood Pleasure Ground as a relaxing haven for the Bridgeman family. Brown was commissioned to create the wood to please all of the senses, and it still does today.
THE HISTORY BEHIND CAPABILITY BROWN
Landscape architect Lancelot Capability Brown created the magnificent grounds in which the 17th century house sits.
Weston Park has two of Capability Brown’s pleasure grounds on the estate, Temple Wood and Shrewsbury Walk. These naturalistic paradises are classic Brown representations, which are little altered from how they looked when they were conceived in the 1760’s. However, they are an unusual find in the 21st century, at which time it is believed there are only five such schemes in existence.
Weston’s Brown story begins in 1764, when Sir Henry Bridgeman inherited the estate. Brown was commissioned by Sir Henry as part of a flurry of activity he undertook to improve the House and it’s grounds, for which he had great ambitions.
The scheme took over two years to complete, requiring a complete revision from formal planting to the composure of a natural, harmonious world. Hundreds of workers were drafted in to carry out the work, which called for the excavation of groundworks to carve out the undulated grassy banks and waterfalls, the removal of avenues of trees to make way for clumps and scattering of trees and the redirection of pathways to change the views they created.
YOUR ROUTE AROUND TEMPLE WOOD
Be sure not to miss a thing by following this route around the wood.
- Pauslip’s Tunnel
Pauslip’s tunnel dates back to the 18th century. The tunnel’s purpose is to link the Capability Brown pleasure ground to the House. Guests of the House will have gone to enjoy the pleasure ground and then would have been led through the tunnel and out onto the impressive walk up to the House,to take visitors out from the natural form of the wood into the more formal vista of the House.
- The ha-ha
To your right on this stretch of path you will be able to see the ha-ha Brown was commissioned to put in place. It is not until Sir Henry Bridgeman inherits in 1763 that we see a serious attempt to keep out the deer through Lancelot Capability Brown’s first Weston contract of 1765 to make a sunk fence around the south-side of the House, while his second contract of 1766 was to continue the ha-ha up to Temple Wood. The ha-ha is the ditch which was made to stop the wild deer that once roamed the entire park out of the pleasure ground, a Brown device. Brown used these instead of fences to prevent the view of the Park from being obstructed. Brown was paid a total of £1,725 for these works.
- Temple of Diana
Sir Henry Bridgeman, who inherited the estate in 1763 commissioned architect James Paine in 1770 to design the Temple. The Temple began life as a garden building for Sir Henry Bridgeman and Lady Bridgeman to entertain their guests. It contains a glazed Orangery, once used for cultivating of exotic plants, a circular tea room adorned with rare paintings by Swiss artist Giovanni Battista Innocenzo Colombo, depicting the life of Diana, Goddess of hunting, and an octagonal music room. In its grounds was a menagerie which housed a collection of brightly plumed exotic birds; the height of fashion and a great status symbol for the 18th century nobility. The Temple of Diana has now been converted into a holiday let sleeping six people, so you can stay in this extraordinarily beautiful and unique building.
- Temple Pool
Capability Brown placed this pool in the centre of his pleasure ground to reflect the colours of the trees and structures that surround it. In 2009 the pool was completely de-silted in order to restore the looking glass finish that Brown had intended for Temple Pool. It provides a stunning centrepiece to the wood, replacing the “limpid small stream” which was there before it. Incredibly, the pool is 3 acres big. It has also always been home to waterfowl, as part of the menageries within the woodland.
- Paine’s Bridge
Paine’s Bridge is another area of Temple Wood that architect James Paine was commissioned to complete. It connects either side of Temple Pool together. Bridges were very much a Brownian feature. The bridge used to carry the main driveway to the House, as visitors would come this way into the estate, over the bridge, past the Temple and down to the House that way. If you stand on the bridge and look the opposite way to the Temple Pool, you will see the illusion that there is a river running into the Pool. In reality this is merely a stream which stops just around the corner. A clever illusion put into place by Brown.
- Cascade Garden
Lady Joan Bridgeman died after a horse riding accident in 1936 and the Cascade Garden was created in her memory. In 2014 it was restored by Head Gardener Martin Gee and his team who have repaired the cascade itself and introduced water loving plants to the garden. Her sister, Lady Anne’s memorial garden sits in front of the main House.
Many of the trees in the Temple Wood are those planted by Brown himself, making them almost 300 years old. You can tell which ones these are, as they have numbers attached to them. These trees are listed, and are not allowed to be felled. There are also many redwoods planted in 1971 by the 6th Earl. Near the Temple there are also a line of sweet chestnuts in a line which were part of the original landscape before Capability Brown was commissioned to construct Temple Wood. They have been dated to go back to 1671. The majority of these trees were taken down by Brown, these trees ran in a line down towards the House. Brown’s vision was a pleasure ground with less formality, however he decided to leave these three trees in their place.
Want to discover even more? Join our Autumn guided walk of Temple Wood with Head Gardener Martin Gee on Sunday 30th October. The walk starts at 10:30am with admission payable on the day.
Each member of the Bridgeman family have left their mark on the estate including the 6th Earl who was a Champion forester.
Over the last 15 years Head Gardener Martin Gee and his team have worked with the Landscape Agency to return the landscape, including Temple Wood, to Brown’s original vision. Whilst respecting the legacy of previous generations of the Bridgeman family we have cleared 80% of the rhododendrons, opened up views and vistas across the Parkland, restored pathways and dredged Temple Pool to give it a looking glass finish.
The Weston Park foundation continually endeavours to restore and upkeep the visions Capability Brown and members of the family within the House had for the Park, preserving it for future generations.