Charles Bridgeman at Richmond
Having begun work at Richmond Gardens in the early 1720s Charles
Bridgeman was appointed one of HM's Principle Gardeners in 1726,
and Royal Gardener in 1728. As Royal Gardener, he had a hand in
the design of most of the Royal Palace gardens, but his work at
most of these, such as Hampton Court and Windsor, involved preserving
the original design, rather than significantly altering it. Richmond
is the only Royal garden that Bridgeman designed almost from scratch.
By the time of their coronation in 1727 George II and Caroline
had rented five more fields to extend Richmond Gardens north, towards
Kew. With this new canvas, Bridgeman radically redesigned the landscape,
for the first time bringing the entirety of the holding into an
overall design. His landscape is crucial to the later history and
design of the Gardens, not only because of the features that were
later retained and reworked, but also for the skeletal structure
and geographical extent that it set.
By 1734 Bridgeman had developed four main areas of the Gardens.
He first extended the Wood by planting Keeper's Close. Several buildings
were built within this enlarged wilderness, such as "The
Summer House in ye Wood", the Ice House and Princess Mary's
Summer House. The Keeper's Close wilderness also included the Keeper's
House and the Pheasant House, and the famous Merlin's Cave was created
at its edge. Both the Summer House in the Wood and Merlin's Cave
were designed by William Kent; the first being a classical pavilion,
the second a romantic folly.
The second area was the immediate surrounds of the Diagonal Wilderness,
which was joined by a large Great Oval, the Amphitheatre and the
Hermitage with its Grass Plot. These formal woodland features are
a classic motif in Bridgeman's work and appear in many of his designed
landscapes. Bridgeman favoured elms in his designs, and the Amphitheatre
was entirely constructed using this species.
The two woodland areas were united with Great Oval and Amphitheatre
by the Duck Pond, one of Bridgeman's earliest features. Rocque's
next map of 1748 showed that the Duck Pond and Merlin's Cave had
been joined by the New Mount, again clothed in elms.
Bridgeman's third main area of development was the Canal Garden.
This was a formal garden that combined a large ornamental canal
with a small wilderness. It included the classical Dairy and Tuscan
Temple designed by Kent, a viewing mound enlarged in 1733 by the
orders of George II, as well as several bridges.
The fourth area for dramatic redesign was beside the river. Here
Bridgeman extended Ormonde's River Terrace. Lined with elms, it
was a popular promenade for fashionable crowds on summer Sunday
evenings, who either walked the line of the Terrace within the gardens,
or followed it outside the garden boundary along the river.
Apart from the landscape gardener and architect Batty Langley's
public criticism of the Canal Garden, whosaid in his "New
Principles of Gardening" (1728), that he found the canal
"too narrow for its length", and its plantations
of trees "stiff and regular", Bridgeman's designs
at Richmond were generally well received. Contemporary opinion formers,
such as Horace Walpole and the famous garden critic Sir John Clerk
of Penicuik, particularly praised Bridgeman's innovative incorporation
of cultivated fields juxtaposed with dense plantings of trees. It
was these "cultivated fields and even morsels of a forest
appearance" that Walpole thought most advanced the agenda
of the English Landscape Gardening reformation and indicated the
"dawn of modern taste".
Bridgeman's design palette can be divided into three groups of
features: the formal (parterres, kitchen gardens, avenues and rectilinear,
octagonal or round lakes and ponds), traditional (mounts, amphitheatres,
statues, garden buildings and irregular cabinets) and progressive
(ha-has, rides and walks to emphasise particular vantage spots).
Richmond Gardens combined the full variety of Bridgeman features
with, for example, the formal Duck Pond, the traditional New Mount
and the progressive River Terrace. The later destruction of the
River Terrace by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, and its replacement
with a ha-ha, is rather ironic, since it replaced one progressive
feature for which Bridgeman was famous, with another with which
he is is accredited for popularising. Walpole stated that the ha-ha
was Bridgeman's "capital stroke, the leading step to all
to: 1700-1772: Two Royal Gardens