Lady L from Yorkshire asks about the relationship between the evidently esteemed Capability Brown, engine of endeavour, and his predecessor Charles Bridgeman.
Well, Bridgeman died in 1738, immediately before Brown arrived at Stowe, so it’s unlikely that the two ever met. However Bridgeman’s influence was everywhere at Stowe – and it was only after his death that his wife, Sarah Bridgeman, published his beautiful bird’s-eye view of the place. Notwithstanding Peter Willis’ monograph, Bridgeman’s genius and his influence on Brown have been overshadowed, first by William Kent (who is given all the credit for Rousham) and then by Brown himself (who tends to be honoured with Stowe) when Bridgeman created the underlying structure of both places.
Bridgeman was was after all the Royal Gardener after Henry Wise’s retirement and not for nothing was he immensely well-respected by his contemporaries. He may have been the first garden designer to make his way in society, as a friend of Alexander Pope, Matthew Prior, Vanbrugh, Thornhill et al.. He is the gardeners’ gardener, and his work provided the vital link between the two great masters André le Nôtre and Brown. It deserves care wherever it survives – at Stowe, at Rousham, at Lodge Park, at Marble Hill for example.
If asked for the most likely influence on Brown’s early work at Wotton and Croome, then I would advise Bridgeman as much as Kent. Think, if you care to, of Brown’s retention of the formal gardens at Hampton Court, of Bridgeman’s great avenue at Wimpole and of the planting in the garden (now parkland) on the north side of the house there. These were Bridgeman’s works and there is no show of any contempt towards them on Brown’s part.