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.
One of the garden buildings at Stowe that I hadn’t really appreciated before is the Pebble Alcove.
It is thought to have been designed by William Kent at some point before 1739. It certainly exudes Kent’s playful theatricality.
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’.
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.