Playing with pebbles

The Pebble Alcove at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The Pebble Alcove at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

I visited Stowe yesterday with Liv Oustrup and Jan Wulff of the Danish heritage agency Slotte og Kulturejendomme (Castles and Cultural Properties). Apart from touring this wonderful landscape garden we also had tea and talked shop with Stowe head gardener Barry Smith.

The seat and pebble mosaics in the Pebble Alcove at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/John MillarChild in the Pebble Alcove at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire.

The seat and pebble mosaics in the Pebble Alcove at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/John MillarChild in the Pebble Alcove at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire.

One of the garden buildings at Stowe that I hadn’t really appreciated before is the Pebble Alcove.

Detail of the mosaics on the Pebble Alcove at Stowe, with the punning Temple-Grenville family motto 'Templa quam dilecta' (How Beautiful are thy Temples). ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Detail of the mosaics on the Pebble Alcove at Stowe, with the punning Temple-Grenville family motto ‘Templa quam dilecta’ (How Beautiful are thy Temples). ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

It is thought to have been designed by William Kent at some point before 1739. It certainly exudes Kent’s playful theatricality.

Detail of the mosaics in the Pebble Alcove. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Detail of the mosaics in the Pebble Alcove. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

It was meant to be seen from the lake as vision of rustic Palladianism, almost camp in its self-conscious juxtaposition of ‘refined’ and ‘rough’.

Detail of the mosaics in the Pebble Alcove. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Detail of the mosaics in the Pebble Alcove. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

And when you approach the alcove that refined-rough contrast suddenly flips, as you discover how humble pebbles have been used to create delicate rococo patterns and gnomic symbols.

3 Responses to “Playing with pebbles”

  1. deana Says:

    This reminds me of the shell and stone grottos in Italy… they are magnificent. This one is really fun too… a bit of the ancient Roman sense of humor in it. I can’t wait to see this in person!

  2. Princess of Eboli History Masquerade Says:

    This is so beautiful and incredible!!!! I really like your page!!!!😄😄😄

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes and Kent’s sense of humour too. There is a major exhibition about him at the Bard Graduate Centre in New York at the moment (http://bit.ly/1bR4FwV – the NT is a lender), coming to the V&A in London next year.

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