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The left hand side of the Temple of Worthies housing men of ideas; Alexander Pope, Sir Thomas Gresham, Inigo Jones, William Shakespeare, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon and John Milton
View through the gates along Oxford Avenue. The Oxford Bridge crosses Oxford Water and in the background can be seen the Boycott Pavilions (James Gibbs 1728-29)
The Path of Virtue enters the upper part of the valley known as the Elysian Fields alongside the River Alder, also known as the River Styx - the entrance to the classical underworld.
The 1761 hump-backed Oxford Bridge over Oxford Water (formerly River Dad) was probably designed by Earl Temple. It is surmounted by 8 decorative urns.
The Grecian Valley was the last major addition to the gardens at Stowe being added to its north east corner in the 1740s. It was also the first major project realised by the new head gardener one Lancelot (later "Capability") Brown. Brown embarked on what was to become his signature approach - large scale earth-moving (by men with wheel-barrows) to create valleys and lakes in what became known as the English landscape style.
The Grecian Temple (1747, probably designed by Viscount Cobham himself) stands at the head of the valley. Cobham identified Greece as the birthplace of European liberty and built the temple to honour that nation. In 1761-64 it was remodelled and renamed the Temple of Concord and Victory to celebrate British success in The Seven Years War.
This view across the valley from the portico of the Temple looks towards the Cobham Monument built by Brown (to designs by James Gibbs) in 1747-49 towards the end of Cobham's life. The statue of Cobham dressed in Roman armour on top of the column was commissioned by his widow.
Richard, Viscount Cobham (1675-1749) inherited Stowe in 1697 and in the early C18 began to transform the estate into a "political garden", the design of which reflected the views of himself and the Whig party to which he belonged. The Whigs supported the Protestant religion and civil and political liberty. Although a military man by profession Cobham had a wide circle of artistic friends including poet Alexander Pope, architect Sir John Vanburgh and gardener Charles Bridgeman. He drew upon their ideas for the design of his garden.
Cobham regarded Greece as the birthplace of European liberty and in 1747 built this temple (originally known as the Grecian Temple) at the head of the "Grecian Valley" to honour that nation. It is thus claimed to be the first "Greek Revival" building in England. In 1761-64 it was remodelled and renamed as the Temple of Concord and Victory to celebrate British successes in the Seven Years War. It was at this time that the six statues acroterion were added to top of the temple.
View from the Path of Virtue across Hawkwell Field to the Gothic Temple, designed by James Gibbs as a symbol of British liberty in 1741.
The Shell Bridge divides the river that runs through the Elysian Fields into two parts, the upper part (beyond the bridge) known as the River Styx, the lower part (here) as the Worthies River.
At the centre of the Temple of Worthies the messenger god Mercury leads the virtuous in the Elysian Fields.
From the Queen's Temple the Path of Virtue (right) leads to the Elysian Fields - the paradise of classical mythology.
Straight ahead, the field behind the fence is called Hawkwell Field.
A view across the valley through the arch on one of William Kent's gate piers to one of the Boycott Pavilions (James Gibbs 1728-29)
Designed by James Gibbs in 1742 it was originally called the Lady's Temple, dedicated to female companionship.
The portico and steps were added in 1772-74 by Earl Temple and in 1790 it was renamed the Queen's Temple in honour of Queen Charlotte (wife of George III).
In the foreground the rear of the Temple of Worthies (William Kent 1734-35), in the background the Temple of Ancient Virtue (William Kent, 1737).
The Season's Fountain looks towards the River Styx in the upper part of the Elysian Fields.
The Elysian Fields (the paradise of classical mythology) was inspired by a 1709 essay by Joseph Addison, in which he described temples dedicated to honour, virtue and vanity in an elysian landscape.
The design for this part of the garden, (and most of the most prominent features within it) was by William Kent, the pioneer of a more informal style of landscape gardening in the early C18.
The busts seen here in the Temple of British Worthies are (from L to R) Inigo Jones, John Milton, William Shakespeare, John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton.
The Temple of British Worthies (1734-35) was originally designed by William Kent for Lord Burlington's gardens at Chiswick. Un-used there the curved screen with niches for busts was taken up by Cobham to provide the most political of all Stowe monuments. He used it to house the busts of 16 Britons that he felt deserved commemoration - 8 men of ideas on the left, 7 men (and 1 woman, Queen Elizabeth I) of action on the right. In the centre the messenger god Mercury leads the virtuous to Elysium.
Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1575) is reputedly the first man to "save the pound sterling" on a foreign exchange market. In 1551 he raised the value of the pound on the bourse of Antwerp thus saving King Edward VI and his government from financial embarrassment. He continued to work for Edward VI until the king's death and later returned as adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. In 1565 he founded the Royal Exchange in the City of London which was modelled on the bourse in Antwerp.
John Hamden (1595-1643) is the most local of Cobham's worthies. Born in Buckinghamshire he was educated at Lord William's Grammar School in Thame and Magdalen College, Oxford. He first sat in Parliament in 1621 and became MP for Buckinghamshire in 1640. In the English Civil War he was one of the leaders of the Parliamentary side and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chalgrove Field in June 1643. He died 6 days later in Thame. He is commemorated by statues in the Market Square, Aylesbury (county town of Buckinghamshire) and in the Central Lobby of the Palace of Westminster, London.