I draw this short account of cascades to a close with one note by Stephen Switzer, who brought to England the skills, honed at Versailles, which Brown inevitably adopted, and another by Brown’s great rival, Sir William Chambers.
Here then is Switzer, who favoured the Italian tradition because more natural and required the designer to have sufficient understanding of hydrology to know ‘how many inches of water his engine or spring will give in a minute, or an hour, and consequently how great a quantity in twenty four hours; that so he may compute how wide his cascades, fountains, or his other expenses of water that are required may be; and how long the supply that arrives in twenty four hours will play; one or two hours at most in a day is generally supposed sufficient; and for the thickness of water over a cascade, half an inch is enough; and from preliminaries so established, may also be readily calculated, how much such cascades may be contracted and enlarged…’
And here is Sir William: `When there is a sufficient supply of water, and proper ground, the Chinese never fail to form cascades in their gardens. They avoid all regularity in these works, observing nature according to her operations in that mountainous country. The waters burst out from among the caverns, and windings of the rocks. In some places a large and impetuous cataract appears; in others are seen many lesser falls. Sometimes the view of the cascade is intercepted by trees, whose leaves and branches only leave room to discover the waters in some places, as they fall down the sides of the mountain. They frequently throw rough wooden bridges from one rock to another, over the steepest part of the cataract; and often intercept it’s passage by trees and heaps of stones, that seem to have been brought down by the violence of the torrent’.
Here he is again, with some types of cascade, I have taken the liberty of underlining these as they come up: `The lakes and rivers [of the gardens of Italy, France, Germany, Spain] confined by quais of hewn stone, are taught to glow in geometrick order; and the cascades glide from the heights by many a succession of marble steps: not a twig is suffered to grow as nature directs; nor is a form admitted but what is scientific, and determinable by rule or compass. … Sometimes, indeed, by way of regale, where such dainties are attainable, you are treated with a serpentine river; that is, a stripe of stagnant water, waving, in semicircles, as far as it will reach, and finishing in a pretty orderly step cascade, that never runs but when it rains….The cascades of the Chinese, which are always introduced, where the ground admits, and where the supply of water is sufficient, are sometimes regular, like those of Marli, Frescati and Tivoli; but more frequently they are rude [i.e. natural cascades], like the falls of Trolhetta and the Nile… Sometimes the views of the cascade is to a great measure intercepted by the branches which hang over it; or its passage is obstructed by trees and heaps of enormous stones, that seem to have been brought down by the fury of the torrent… narrow winding paths are carried along the edges of precipices; ….They have likewise cascades, contrived to fall from precipices in large regular sheets [i.e. weir cascades], smooth as glass, and forming arches, that leave a considerable space between the rocks and the water. This is laid out in fine pebble walks, adorned with grass plots and borders of flowers of every sort, that thrive in moist situations; and in the upright of the rocks are hollowed grottos, with many little neat recesses, placed at different heights, and communicating with each other by steps or passages cut in the solid stone, from whence the cascades, when illuminated by the sun, appear like a multitude of rainbows, glittering with a thousand colours; and the adjacent trees, buildings or other objects, seen through the brilliant medium, have a very uncommon, picturesque effect.
As the Chinese are so very fond of water, their Gardeners endeavour to obtain it by art, whereever it is denied by Nature. For this purpose, they have many ingenious inventions to collect; and many machines, of simple construction, which raise it to almost any level; at a trifling expence. They use the same method for overflowing vallies; that is practiced in Europe; by forming heads of earth or masonry at their extremities; where the soil is too porous to hold water, they clay the bottom,…’