Stephen Switzer, landscape designer and author, was baptised on 25 February 1682 at Micheldever and Stratton parish church, Hampshire. He was the second of two sons of Thomas Switzer (born around 1697) who was a farmer.
In 1699 Switzer was apprenticed to George London, who was the senior partner of Brompton Park Nurseries, the firm which dealt with hundreds of landscapes during the 17th and 18th centuries. London was in partnership at the nurseries with Henry Wise.
At the Brompton Nurseries Switzer rose to be Lieutenant for a number of projects. During this time Switzer met and formed friendships with architects John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, as well as Charles Bridgeman, a fellow landscape designer. It is likely that such bonds were made during the projects at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire and Castle Howard, Yorkshire.
Switzer's design for Ray Wood at Castle Howard was the first of its kind in Britain, and had a network of serpentine walks that swept throughout the wood.
Another of Switzer's designs was at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire (1711-1718). There he created a landscape that featured a formal garden, encircled by an earthen bank. This formed a platform from which to view the 'improved' rolling working landscape beyond. The formal garden was made up of ten radial spikes terminating in bastions with a long avenue protruding from the centre, southwards, towards the groves. This design is remarkebly similar to that of the 'Manor of Paston' found in Switzer's Iconographica Rustica (1715). The three volumes had been made up of The Nobleman Gentleman and Gardeners Recreation (1715) which was one of Switzer's seminal works.
In the 1720s Switzer married his wife Elizabeth, although there is little evidence that reveals her patronage. By the mid-1720s Switzer had taken premises at Westminster Hall and had become a public figure who wrote on modern techniques including fertilisers, hydraulics, and beneficial legumes.
Switzer died on 8 June 1745 at his house at Millbank, Richmond. He left a son at St John's College, Cambridge, and was buried at St. Margaret's, Westminster.
Brogden, W, A (2004) ‘Switzer, Stephen (bap. 1682, d. 1745)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26855, [accessed 8 Oct 2007]
Longstaffe-Gowan, T (1998) 'Grimsthorpe Castle' in Country Life, Vol. CXCII, no. 2, May 21, pp. 50-55
Pardo, R (1993) Grimsthorpe Castle: The Historic Estate: Theory of conservation unpublished M.A. Thesis, University of York
To learn more about him, please click here to go to the Historical Profile article: http://www.parksandgardens.org/explore/topics/176-historical-profiles/526-stephen-switzer-pioneer-of-the-english-landscape-garden