After the Christmas break it was back to complete the initial
examination of the cascade. This involved back-filling our
original trench opening up a second closer to the cascade and
examining the stonework adjacent to the pier next to the water
fall. We were expecting some continuation of the walling as
illustrated in the 1780s but nothing emerged.
Friday January 10th.
A further day was
entirely given over to recording and back-filling. (We
actually popped back during lock down on May 20th. to
complete the ground plan for the ruins above the cascade
before producing the final report.)
Back-filling of trench A complete, what a tidy piece of
Rubble revetment next to the cascade
exposed and ready to record
I really do want one of these... not sure what I would do with
it but here it is at Stowe clearing clumps of rushes from the
south west corner of the Octagon Lake
Ready for publication, an annotated photo of trench A showing
the different deposits, or contexts as we call them, labelled
The site plan compiled with post-lock down measurements
THE DORIC ARCH
Thursday February 20th.
Back for a final session at the Doric Arch, the statues of
the muses were in place and looking rather better than I had
expected but the task to hand was a watching brief as the
topsoil was removed in order to lay a new path that followed
the arc of the new statues various traces of former paths
Friday February 21st.
More following of the path round and cleaning up after the
digger to uncover the limits of various features.
Monday February 24th.
The final act, a wet day of measuring, drawing a recording
before the metalling went in to complete the path.
Here they are, nine muses awaiting their Apollo. The blue lines mark
the area to be dug out for the new path
The new path being dug out and revealing traces of earlier paths
and stone edging.
The master plan showing all the areas examined over the last
.. and our interpretation showing the two different
positions that the statues had been located in.
MARCH 24th. THEN
ALONG CAME COVID 19 AND LOCK DOWN!
Work resumed at Stowe
in November during a second lock-down during which
non-essential work was allowed to continue. With the
closure of the golf course contractors moved in to
eliminate the physical traces, although I can't help
feeling that a specimen bunker or two could have been left
as a monument to this curious twenty-first century
pastime. As part of the work to return part of the park to
its mid-nineteenth century appearance we were charged with
examining the area around the Rotunda and former Queen's
Theatre, as illustrated below in a coloured version of one
of Rigaud's famous views from the mid-eighteenth century.
View looking east past Vanbrugh's Rotunda along Bridgeman's
canal to the Queen's Theatre he also designed
9th. to Thursday November 12th.
A slightly damp start when after extensive
consultations we put down the first of ten, yes ten,
trenches adjacent to the Rotunda. These were designed
to attempt to understand the routes and characters of
the various pathways that had approached the area
especially from the south-west and north. The
situation was enormously complicated by later
landscaping, especially for the golf course, and
consisted primarily of trying to disentangle a variety
of gravel spreads of differing colours and textures.
Finds were few although some interesting architectural
fragments did turn up in one of the trenches.
Not a very appealing view on a grey day, looking west
from the Queen's Theatre along the line of Bridgeman's canal to
Monday morning, the first trench is cut (with endless thanks to
Billy for his patience) and by the end of the day it's starting
to look like a war zone
Early highlights include this spectacular section cut through
the current path and an appealing band of fine, sharp gravel in
orange sand, the eighteenth-century pathway... perhaps?
Things always look better when the sun is shining, Tuesday and
our survey is underway.
Our longest trench, not surprisingly called Trench A with a
puzzling band of grey clay, right where a path should be plus
lunches hidden modestly out of sight of visitors behind... well
you can see and the last trench of the day on Tuesday cutting
down from the Rotunda
Back on Thursday, mainly to do recording, and I took the
opportunity to have a look at the cascade at the far end of the
Eleven Acre Lake whilst the water was turned off.
At the Rotunda, a sneak peek at the foundations and an
interesting spread of rubble to the south west (see below)
By the end of Thursday everything filled back in, you'd scarcely
know we had been there, and still the sun shone and that enabled
me to get the finds washed and dried leaving me with some
intriguing architectural fragments to explain, previously known
as 'interesting rubble'
Back in the office plenty of paperwork to do as well as starting
to get the plans and sections traced out to say nothing of
interpreting the results.
... and whilst we're on the subject of paths here's a charming
illustration from 1769 looking north towards the house but
notice the man, horse and roller maintaining the gravel path.
November 16th. and Tuesday 17th.
For the second week of this phase of operations attention
shifted to the opposite end of the area, first off to
examine the terracing associated with the Queen's Theatre
and then to put a section through the side of Bridgeman's
canal. Whilst at the top of the slope we also opened by hand
a small trench to test the suggestion that this was the
original position of Queen Caroline's monument. Apart
from a hint of a gravel pathway there were few traces
of the former layout of the Queen's Theatre, it looks as
if the terracing was removed and the slope
graded down. However, at the bottom of the slope plenty of
puddled clay marking the bottom of the former canal. the
section went on to reveal how carefully the base of the
canal had been laid down with a deposit of gravel capped by
sand below a decent depth of puddled clay. Unfortunately
this also suggested that the whole area had been lowered at
some point thus removing any trace of a perimeter wall to
Here's a view from 1769 after the outline of Bridgeman's
canal had been softened a little by rounding the ends, note
the gravel path that runs along the line of shepherds and
... and the same view today with Billy and his digger
cutting a long, long trench with the clay bottom to the pond
being uncovered down at the far end.
Meanwhile up top, what a location to dig a trench, the
search for the original base to Queen Caroline's Monument
reveals a suggestive spread of rubble and mortar.
Here she is in her current location on the far side of the
park with a similarly ropy set of foundations.
Further work in both trenches revealed the sand and
gravel base on which the clay bottom to the canal had been
The excavation of a clay bank at the far end of the lower
section tells us how little we know about earlier landscapes
within the park.