Charles Bridgeman: a reappraisal from a landscape history perspective

Haynes, Susan (2019) Charles Bridgeman: a reappraisal from a landscape history perspective. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of Haynes Final Post Viva Thesis.pdf] PDF
Restricted to Repository staff only until 31 October 2025.

Request a copy


Charles Bridgeman, an early eighteenth-century landscape designer and Royal Gardener from 1726 to 1738, has been neglected by garden-historical scholarship. In spite of the popularity of his work in his own period, it is generally represented as a footnote in the narrative of the rise of the English landscape garden, largely as a result of ideas articulated by Horace Walpole in the 1780 in an essay The History of the Modern Taste in Gardening. Walpole frames Bridgeman’s work teleologically as a forerunner of the style which found its apotheosis in the work of William Kent, and Lancelot Brown. The single monograph on his work Charles Bridgeman and the English Landscape Garden by Peter Willis, first published in 1977, consciously perpetuates this view. An alternative, though no less partial, narrative sees his work through a political lens; he is the chosen gardener of the Whig ascendancy. Bridgeman’s shadowy presence in the canon of eighteenth century gardening is, in part, responsible for his neglect by garden historians. There is little on which to base any study; the majority of the evidence for his work is a corpus of plans identified by Willis, and the scant remains of it in the landscape.

There exists, then, space for a study which, while building on this body of knowledge, moves beyond the art-historical to challenge the accepted narratives it presents about Bridgeman’s work. Placing his work within an alternative academic framework, landscape history, allows a more wide-ranging interdisciplinary investigation which might reveal other meanings in the data available. The first step of any new study is to establish a reliable corpus of Bridgeman’s work from which to proceed. His work can then be considered as a process, from survey and design, through the mechanics of its execution, to its impact on the existing landscape; it can be placed in the context of the human interactions which facilitated it, and in the social, political and historical context which drove its creation.

Through this approach, it is hoped that a more comprehensive and accurate picture of Bridgeman as a designer, a gardener and a contractor can be established, and a more comprehensive assessment made of his place in the canon of English garden designers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2022 13:22
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 13:22

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item