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Stephen Switzer - pioneer of the English landscape garden

Article Index

  1. Stephen Switzer - pioneer of the English landscape garden
  2. Early career
  3. Influential projects
  4. Publications
  5. Later career
  6. Sources
  7. All Pages


Influential projects

pgds_20070818-153150_plinth-in-reservoir-ray-woodA plinth in Ray WoodAmong Switzer's early projects was the landscaping of Blenheim Palace, which began in 1709. Wise, Vanbrugh, Bridgeman and Switzer all worked on the site, creating a vast landscape boasting two parterres, each one surrounded by bastions and brick walls built in the martial style. There is little doubt that these designs neatly connected the gardens with the 1st Duke of Marlborough's (1650-1722) military successes during the Wars of Spanish Succession (Green 1987, 73).  

Another project, arguably far more influential in the development of British designed landscapes, was Switzer's involvement at Castle Howard. From 1699, Sir John Vanbrugh had been employed to create the new family seat for Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle (1669-1738), during which time the designs for the landscape were drawn and debated. Early plans submitted by George London were rejected despite their fashionable details, which included radiating paths and vast allées that swept across the landscape.  

Central to the designs was the treatment of Ray Wood, one of the surviving features of the earlier medieval landscape. While London suggested removing the woodland, Switzer went on to introduce a series of meandering paths through the wood that connected a number of clearings or ‘cabinets' with summerhouses, statues and fountains (Finch 2008).

The treatment of Ray Wood with its layout of serpentine walks was the first of its kind in the country and marked a departure from the formal geometric designs that had dominated the late 17th century. It was the ‘Labrynth diverting model', as described by Switzer, which soon inspired the proverb ‘York against London' (Switzer 1718, II). This referred to the Earl of Carlisle's preference for Switzer over George London and the friendly rivalry between York and the City of London.