In Search of Arcadia


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In Search of Arcadia

Janina Ramirez and waterman John Bailey explore the 18th-century origins of the English landscape movement in a 12-mile stretch of the Thames between Hampton and Chiswick.


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There is a certain magical stretch of the Thames in London

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that was at the centre of an 18th century cultural movement

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that changed our British landscapes forever.

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At the heart of it was a fascination with the ancient concept of Arcadia,

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where man and nature lived in perfect pastoral harmony.

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This is where Sir Walpole described that Kent jumped the fence and saw

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that all nature was a garden.

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A radical group of writers and artists

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completely overturned the idea

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of what comprised a beautiful landscape

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and challenged the formality of the day.

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It's emphasising the complete power of the monarch.

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Their legacy can still be seen around the world.

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So who were these visionaries

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at the heart of this transformative movement?

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Pope is enormously famous,

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enormously influential at this period.

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And where did their inspiration come from?

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This is the classical tradition being fantastically realised

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by the 18th century imagination.

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I'm Janina Ramirez,

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and I'm going to explore their world along the Thames,

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visit their houses, gardens and curious creations

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and discover why their ideas are still so relevant today...

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I want all the advantages of the city,

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and all the...many of the advantages

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of living where nature is still visible.

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..as I go in search of Arcadia.

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Arcadia.

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A vision of pastoral bliss

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where man and nature lived in harmony.

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It was the ancient Greeks

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that first came up with the idea of Arcadia,

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and it's fascinated people ever since.

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This Greek mythology and the idea of a pastoral Eden

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led ancient poets like Virgil to write poems that idealised Arcadia,

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developing a philosophy that has lasted for centuries.

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And in Britain, in the 18th century,

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this seductive philosophy inspired an explosion of interest in Arcadian

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themes. This was expressed across all the arts - in poetry, writing,

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painting, architecture and garden design.

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And that's what I want to explore in this programme.

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In the early 1700s,

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an extraordinary group of people

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were drawn here by royalty, nobility,

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and by the beauty of this stretch of the river.

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They tried to transform this Thames landscape into an Arcadian idyll.

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To help me understand what inspired them,

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I'm starting my journey with an iconic image.

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This is one of the most important and famous

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of the Arcadian paintings.

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It's Et In Arcadia Ego

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by Nicholas Poussin,

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painted in 1638.

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Everything about this painting gives that impression of harmony.

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There's the frame,

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all the way around the edge of these beautiful trees,

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and mountains, and the grass.

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So, the landscape is part of this Arcadian idea,

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but so are the figures.

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They are part of the trees, of the mountains,

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that embrace them and surround them.

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Man and nature, harmonised.

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It's not hard to see why this painting has inspired

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so many people.

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This is Garrick's Temple.

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It marks the start of the Arcadian Thames -

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a 12-mile stretch of river that flows through

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a classically inspired landscape.

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This unique part of the river winds its way past Hampton Court,

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through Twickenham, Richmond and Kew,

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and then finally on to Chiswick.

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I'll be travelling down the river by boat with John Bailey,

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waterman and historian.

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We'll be experiencing the essence of the river,

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while I'm discovering more

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about the people at the heart of this revolution -

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where they lived and what they did to transform this landscape.

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Hey! You're here.

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We're starting our journey together, on a traditional Thames wherry.

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Right, let me get the rope and pull you up.

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-OK.

-There we go!

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-Thank you. Lovely seeing you.

-Oh, it's good to see you.

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Right, have you got your fishing stuff with you?

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So, I've got my fishing stuff and I've got a copy of my very favourite

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book for you. It's Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler.

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You'll have heard of it, obviously,

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the most famous fishing book there has ever been.

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The Compleat Angler was written by Izaak Walton

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and was published in 1653.

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It's an English literary classic

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and is one of the first books to call for responsible management

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of the natural world.

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Walton believed that being at one with nature was key to

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spiritual enlightenment.

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John, I want to know why is it that this book has done so well?

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Hasn't it been reprinted something like 400 times?

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400 times over 300, 400 years.

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Obviously, there's a lot of good fishing stuff in there.

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-Right.

-And really surprisingly good fishing stuff.

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-It's usable as a fishing manual?

-It is, it is.

-Yeah?

-Even today.

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I mean, there are some beautiful, beautiful bits in it for the angler.

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I think it's been so successful, Janina,

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because over centuries and centuries people have just been able to dip

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into it, and to take from it, in a way, what they want to take from it.

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It's this beautiful mix of fishing,

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countryside, fun, friendship, advice.

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I mean, I'm sure Izaak didn't expect it to be such a massive,

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massive success.

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Izaak Walton was an Anglican and a deeply religious man.

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His faith was reflected

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in his enthusiastic praise of the beauty of the countryside

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and the human place within it.

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The book takes the form of a dialogue between a fisherman,

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a hunter and a falconer,

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mixed with poems, songs and practical advice on fishing.

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This is a dialogue between Piscator and Venator,

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between the fisherman and the hunter.

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And Izaak is trying, through the words of the Piscator,

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to create this...this idyll

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that the angler experiences and loves.

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And I think this is what's kept it going, you know,

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being...made it so successful throughout the centuries,

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because of course it was one of Wordsworth's favourite books.

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If you look in there, you'll find my bookmark.

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-Oh, yeah.

-And one of my favourite little songs in there...

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I don't expect you to sing it, but you might like...

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I don't know how to sing it, but I can certainly read it.

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This one, the Milkmaid's Song?

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Yeah, just a start, gives you a...

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-..a taste of what Walton's about.

-OK.

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RECITES: Come live with me and be my love

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And we will all the pleasures prove

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That valleys, groves or hills or fields or woods

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And steepy mountains yields.

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That's gorgeous. Do you know what I like it?

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I like the fact that it's...

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It roots it firmly in the British landscape.

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At the time of its publication,

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England was still recovering from the brutality of civil war

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and was mired in political chaos.

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The king had been beheaded and the country was ruled as a republic,

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yet Walton proposed that time spent in nature,

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enjoying the simple pleasure of angling and pastoral surroundings,

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could bring about a sense of wellbeing.

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For Walton, fishing was the pastime of sane men

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in a world of apparent insanity.

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Izaak Walton and his friends, they feel physically threatened,

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they are seeing their religion threatened,

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because of course they were Anglican

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and Cromwell was a strict Puritan, as you know.

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So, in some ways, this book was, if you like,

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a release for Walton.

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I think he probably wrote it at this particular time because there was a

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deep need in him to portray something that was pastoral,

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Arcadian.

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There's so much passion, it's almost a spirituality.

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See, that's what fascinates me about it.

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I think it's this idea that it's a philosophy

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in the absence of a good, solid religious foundation,

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which is what sort of happens in the late 17th century.

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And so, under the guise of an angling book,

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you have these deep spiritual insights into the relationship

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between man and nature, don't you?

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-Right.

-What are you off to do now?

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Well, I'm off to meet my great friend

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who is an expert at fishing and an expert on Izaak Walton,

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and we're going to have a lovely bucolic afternoon.

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-Going to go that way?

-Yeah.

-OK.

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In many ways, The Compleat Angler

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presented a model of how to live rather than how to fish.

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-I'll see you in a bit.

-Bye.

-Bye.

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John is heading to the river to experience Walton's philosophy

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first-hand with fellow angler Keith Elliott.

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Hello, John.

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-You've even brought me a chair.

-Yep.

-What have you caught?

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I am giving a very good demonstration of why it's called

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fishing rather than catching at the moment, actually.

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What am I going to fish? A float or a feeder?

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I wouldn't bother with a float, actually.

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I think the answer is a feeder, fish it out and see what comes from it.

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-And we'll have a natter.

-Yes.

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So we're just here for a social.

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Excellent.

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Right, maestro, I'm ready to go.

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OK, I would have thought about a third of the way across.

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-I can't cast that far.

-I think you'll...

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you'll catch nothing there, just as much as you would two thirds,

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except that it means less winding in.

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Back in the 17th century,

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the Thames was a means

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for transporting people and goods through London,

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but it was also a refuge

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from the plague, smoke and pollution of the city.

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Sitting here today, Keith,

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it brings home to you what Walton really was about.

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Yes, he was a fisherman, but it's that lovely oneness with nature,

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it's that lovely synchronicity.

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Oh, I thought you had a fish.

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-It's the worm.

-Oh, it's the worm!

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Not that big a fish, come on.

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It's that oneness, isn't it,

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with the natural world that I suppose even then, in 1653,

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Walton felt was disappearing or being forgotten?

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Well, since we're here, we might as well look at it.

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When he was talking about, in this, about...when there was,

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you know, Auceps and Venator and Piscator,

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and he was talking about why he was doing it,

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and I think it was Auceps who was saying, you know,

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"Why do they go fishing?"

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Yeah, he said, "And I profess myself a falconer

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"and have heard many grave, serious men pity them.

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" 'Tis such a heavy, contemptible, dull recreation."

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You know? And he says, "You know, gentlemen,

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" 'tis an easy thing to scoff at any art or recreation.

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"A little wit mixed with ill nature, confidence and malice will do it."

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And then he talks about why he does it.

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And he says, "Let me tell you, sir,

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"there have been many men that by others are taken to be grave

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"and serious men which we condemn and pity,

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"men that are taken to be grave because nature has made them

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"of a sour complexion. Money-getting men,

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"men that spend all their time

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"first in getting and next in anxious care to keep it,

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"men that are condemned to be rich

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"and then always busy and discontented.

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"For these poor rich men, we anglers pity them perfectly."

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I mean, Walton put it very well, didn't he?

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About it wasn't about catching fish, it was just the relaxation.

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Fishing has always been a balm for the soul.

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I think it's been a means of escape for anglers when they've been

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traumatised or stressed and, of course,

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when Walton was writing The Compleat Angler in the 1650s,

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it must have been easily the most terrifying time of his life.

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Seven years after the publication of Walton's book,

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the monarchy was restored to the throne in 1660.

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In the years that followed,

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the nation became more politically settled.

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Yet despite Walton's book becoming fashionable,

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his idea of living in harmony with nature was still out of step

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with other tastemakers of the time.

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The next destination on my Arcadian journey is one of the most famous

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historic palaces in London.

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In the late 17th century,

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joint monarchs William III and Mary II embarked

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on a massive rebuilding project here, at Hampton Court.

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They commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild

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the palace in a grand baroque style,

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reminiscent of the great European courts.

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This was to be a grand statement for a reformed, powerful monarchy.

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And it needed a garden to match.

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MUSIC: Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel

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William III ordered the privy gardens to be remodelled

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in a formal French or Dutch style,

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inspired by the grand gardens of Versailles.

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The grass was cut into intricate patterns with a background

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of sand and gravel,

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and yew trees and hollies were shaped into cones and globes.

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This really is nature ordered, controlled, contained,

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suppressed even.

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It's emphasising the complete power and authority of the monarch over

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everything, even the natural world.

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Within just a few years of the garden's completion in 1702,

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formal gardens in the baroque style began to fall out of fashion.

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Did you catch anything?

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Absolutely nothing.

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This was the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment,

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a movement which placed reason at the centre of ideas about politics,

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philosophy and science.

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Society was ready for change.

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I did some research before I came out with you on the river, and...

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So there's these two very well-known literary geniuses -

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Joseph Addison and Alexander Pope -

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and they write articles in newspapers

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about ten years later - 1712, 1713 -

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in which they satirise these sorts of formal gardens.

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You think of them as being interested in poetic themes

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and big ideas, but in this case,

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they're actually talking about the taste,

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the fashion for these clipped gardens.

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The first quote

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is Joseph Addison in the Spectator in 1712.

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"Our British gardeners, on the contrary,

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"instead of humouring nature,

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"love to deviate from it as much as possible.

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"Our trees rise in cones, globes and pyramids.

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"We see the marks of scissors upon every plant and bush."

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So Addison's poking fun at it.

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Pope in the Guardian in 1713, he takes it on another step.

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He makes a link back to something else,

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something that maybe poets and painters and garden designers

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should be aspiring to, which is the taste of the ancients.

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He says,

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"There's certainly something in the amiable simplicity of unadorned

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"nature that spreads over the mind a more noble sort of tranquillity

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"and a loftier sensation of pleasure

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"than can be raised from the nicer scenes of art.

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"This was the taste of the ancients in their gardens.

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"How contrary to this simplicity is the modern practice of gardening?

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"We seem to make it our study to recede from nature."

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So again, he's talking about receding from nature,

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Addison's talking about deviating from nature,

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but Pope takes it a step further.

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He's saying it's actually about more than just gardening,

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that what we want to be replicating in our outdoor spaces is something

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that's more like this sort of history painting,

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these wonderful works like the Poussin,

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Et In Arcadia Ego, where it's man and nature in harmony,

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everything's loose, everything's idyllic.

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And also, going back to the taste of the ancients -

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in their poetry - going back to Virgil,

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going back to pastoral poems that, looking at those exemplars,

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we should be making that happen in our gardens as well.

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So it's a whole philosophy.

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Exactly. It's a whole philosophy, and I think people nowadays tend to

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separate out these things -

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art, painting, literature - from gardening.

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In this time, it was serious stuff.

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It was about taste,

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it was about creating vistas in the landscape that were like living

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paintings. So what do you want your living paintings to look like?

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Do you want them all clipped and constrained and cut with scissors,

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or do you want them to go back to this taste of the ancients?

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-Let nature breathe.

-Exactly.

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-All right, hold on.

-OK, we're nearly there.

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-Right.

-Right.

-Let's go.

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Pope and Addison's comments in the newspapers were dismissive of formal

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gardens like those at Hampton Court and suggested that people should

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create gardens to look natural and classical.

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I will see you later.

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See you later!

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So why was Alexander Pope, an 18th-century poet,

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writing so scathingly about formal gardens?

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And where does he fit into our story?

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Pope was part of a new progressive literary set, the Augustans.

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Known for their satire and wit,

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they were obsessed by the work of Virgil and Homer.

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To find out more about Pope, I'm meeting Ross Wilson,

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an expert in 18th-century literature...

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-Hi, Ross.

-Hello.

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..in a pub in Twickenham that Pope may have visited himself.

0:20:100:20:14

I can't believe we're sat possibly where Alexander Pope would have sat.

0:20:140:20:18

Indeed, yeah. He didn't live far away from here.

0:20:180:20:20

So where the great mind sat.

0:20:200:20:22

Indeed, yeah, yeah.

0:20:220:20:23

He really was the most successful poet certainly of the first half

0:20:230:20:26

of the 18th century.

0:20:260:20:28

There's particular poems that he's famous for, isn't he?

0:20:280:20:30

What are his really big ones?

0:20:300:20:32

That's right. It's fair to say

0:20:320:20:33

that many people today wouldn't necessarily know

0:20:330:20:37

of Pope's works directly,

0:20:370:20:39

but it's almost certain that they would have heard

0:20:390:20:41

some of Pope's lines.

0:20:410:20:42

So, the line "Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind", of course,

0:20:420:20:46

lent a title to a film.

0:20:460:20:50

"A little learning is a dangerous thing" - very true.

0:20:500:20:52

And "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread", and so on.

0:20:520:20:55

-He's such a fascinating character to me, though.

-Absolutely.

0:20:550:20:58

Because, to me, he symbolises

0:20:580:21:00

the triumph of the underdog in many ways.

0:21:000:21:02

That's right, that's right.

0:21:020:21:04

He was very ill as a child and then really throughout his life.

0:21:040:21:09

He contracted a disease called Pott's disease,

0:21:090:21:11

so tuberculosis of the bone, which left him stunted and hunchbacked,

0:21:110:21:17

afflicted by crippling shortness of breath and pains

0:21:170:21:21

throughout his life.

0:21:210:21:22

And he was also from a Roman Catholic family,

0:21:220:21:25

which at that period had very significant disadvantages,

0:21:250:21:30

so for instance Roman Catholics were barred

0:21:300:21:33

from living within ten miles

0:21:330:21:35

of the Cities of London and Westminster.

0:21:350:21:37

I find that amazing.

0:21:370:21:38

So Catholics simply could not live in the centre, they had to move out.

0:21:380:21:42

Pope's father moved his family from Hammersmith

0:21:420:21:45

to Binfield, in Berkshire,

0:21:450:21:46

to escape the anti-Catholic prejudice.

0:21:460:21:48

But it enabled Pope to form an attachment to Windsor Forest,

0:21:480:21:52

the subject of one of his first poems.

0:21:520:21:54

So Binfield is very close to Windsor Forest.

0:21:540:21:57

It's in fact surrounded by Windsor Forest,

0:21:570:22:00

which is one of his great early poems of 1713,

0:22:000:22:04

a very important pastoral poem.

0:22:040:22:06

And in terms of the importance of the pastorals, they were popular,

0:22:060:22:10

were they, these poems?

0:22:100:22:11

-They got a readership?

-That's right,

0:22:110:22:13

so really it's the pastorals, in many ways,

0:22:130:22:15

which he wrote at the age of only 16,

0:22:150:22:17

that launched Pope's career that make him celebrated as a poet.

0:22:170:22:22

And what Pope does in those poems is really make the Thames,

0:22:220:22:28

make around here a suitable setting for pastoral poetry.

0:22:280:22:33

So we could say, really, that Pope's responsible for the eulogising

0:22:330:22:36

of the Thames, elevating it to this almost classical status.

0:22:360:22:40

Yeah, so again, his pastorals are all set on the banks of the Thames.

0:22:400:22:45

And he's insistent not only in comparing the Thames

0:22:450:22:49

to the eulogised rivers of classical antiquity and of Europe and so on,

0:22:490:22:54

but actually saying that the Thames is more beautiful.

0:22:540:22:56

Alexander Pope's work was now influencing

0:23:010:23:03

other forward-thinking Augustan writers of the day,

0:23:030:23:06

friends like dramatist John Gay,

0:23:060:23:09

who went on to write The Beggar's Opera

0:23:090:23:11

and Jonathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver's Travels.

0:23:110:23:13

They were known as the three Yahoos of Twickenham.

0:23:130:23:16

It's wonderful, because for someone that seems to have everything

0:23:160:23:19

against him - looks-wise, appearance-wise,

0:23:190:23:21

but also socially and in terms of him being a Catholic -

0:23:210:23:25

his celebrity is unparalleled, isn't it?

0:23:250:23:29

And Pope's influence is enormous as well.

0:23:290:23:31

So there are a whole host of imitators

0:23:310:23:33

throughout the 18th century,

0:23:330:23:35

and he comes very much to dictate the literary taste

0:23:350:23:38

of the middle years of the 18th-century certainly.

0:23:380:23:41

So Pope is enormously famous,

0:23:410:23:43

enormously influential at this period.

0:23:430:23:46

Pope's love of the classics inspired him to translate

0:23:460:23:49

Homer's Iliad, which earned him a huge sum of money.

0:23:490:23:52

His new-found wealth enabled him to lease a house and a five-acre plot

0:23:520:23:56

of land here, in Twickenham, in 1719.

0:23:560:23:59

It was to become his retreat, his Tusculum as he called it,

0:23:590:24:03

and the gardens became famous.

0:24:030:24:05

He develops the house into this Palladian villa

0:24:050:24:08

that fronts the Thames

0:24:080:24:10

and has a kind of lawn leading onto the Thames.

0:24:100:24:13

So what's also important, I think,

0:24:130:24:15

is Pope doesn't just create

0:24:150:24:17

this landscape in his imagination or in his poems,

0:24:170:24:20

he invests in a plot in Twickenham on the Thames, deliberately so,

0:24:200:24:25

and then cultivates it, creates...

0:24:250:24:28

-That's right.

-..a poetic scene in those five acres.

0:24:280:24:31

Yep. And there's a considerable overlap, actually,

0:24:310:24:34

between how Pope thinks about poetry

0:24:340:24:36

and how he thinks about gardening,

0:24:360:24:38

so the kind of unaffected simplicity,

0:24:380:24:41

the free natural taste that is embodied in his garden,

0:24:410:24:46

and all these things are important to Pope,

0:24:460:24:49

and he's really very fond of what he's managed to achieve there.

0:24:490:24:53

Pope's house and gardens in Twickenham were demolished

0:24:580:25:00

years ago and now a school stands on the site, but there is one

0:25:000:25:04

extraordinary feature of Pope's original estate that remains.

0:25:040:25:08

This road was here in the 18th century,

0:25:090:25:12

but Pope had a problem because his house was on one side

0:25:120:25:16

and his gardens were on the other,

0:25:160:25:19

but he came up with a novel solution

0:25:190:25:21

and built an underground walkway beneath the road.

0:25:210:25:25

But this wasn't just a functional subway.

0:25:340:25:36

What started out as a plain brick passageway was transformed by Pope

0:25:360:25:40

into an imitation of a natural cavern.

0:25:400:25:42

This underground passage, known as Pope's grotto, embodies his love

0:25:510:25:56

of the classics.

0:25:560:25:58

It's fashioned in a true Arcadian style.

0:25:580:26:01

Pope even wrote in one of his letters,

0:26:010:26:04

"Were it to have nymphs, it would be complete in everything."

0:26:040:26:07

It's estimated that, over the course of his lifetime, he embedded

0:26:100:26:14

over 30 tonnes of minerals, rocks and curiosities in the walls here.

0:26:140:26:19

The grotto has now fallen into disrepair,

0:26:190:26:21

and Angela Kidner is part of a group

0:26:210:26:24

planning to restore it to its former glory.

0:26:240:26:27

-Hello.

-Hi!

0:26:270:26:29

Angela, how lovely to see you.

0:26:290:26:30

-And you.

-Which way are we going? This way?

-This way.

0:26:300:26:33

Oh, wow, so, we're in...

0:26:370:26:39

We're in the north chamber.

0:26:390:26:41

The north chamber.

0:26:410:26:42

-Because there's a number, aren't there?

-There are.

0:26:420:26:44

There are two chambers,

0:26:440:26:45

there's a central corridor and there's the entrance chamber,

0:26:450:26:49

which we've just passed through.

0:26:490:26:51

So, really, what we can see through there,

0:26:510:26:53

that existing building and door, that wouldn't have been there?

0:26:530:26:56

No, you would have seen a sloping green lawn,

0:26:560:26:59

there would have been the river glinting,

0:26:590:27:01

boats passing up and down - a very busy river -

0:27:010:27:03

and the light flooding from Ham Lands on the opposite side.

0:27:030:27:08

So all of this would have been quite light.

0:27:080:27:10

And why did Pope build this?

0:27:100:27:12

Well, the first reason was a practical one.

0:27:120:27:14

He needed to get to his garden on the other side of the highway.

0:27:140:27:18

The second was that he was fascinated by the classicists

0:27:180:27:23

and also by the burgeoning fashion for the natural landscape,

0:27:230:27:30

and so he wanted to create something

0:27:300:27:32

that was a sparkling but natural cave.

0:27:320:27:35

He applied stones and bits of glass and crystal to the walls

0:27:350:27:42

of this place, which were to him a place of contemplation and retreat.

0:27:420:27:47

Should we carry on, do some investigating?

0:27:470:27:49

Yes. Just above here...

0:27:490:27:51

-Oh, yeah.

-..there is an ammonite.

0:27:510:27:53

Oh, yes. Wow.

0:27:530:27:56

-There's curiosities around every corner.

-Indeed!

0:27:560:28:00

So this is the south chamber, and we've got some finds here that were

0:28:000:28:04

discovered 20 years ago.

0:28:040:28:05

-Gosh, what a table of amazing treasures.

-Table of...

0:28:050:28:09

Yes. There's coral from the South Seas.

0:28:090:28:12

-Yeah.

-These were all gifts from people who were friends,

0:28:120:28:15

or friends of friends,

0:28:150:28:17

very often people who were just pleased to supply Pope with

0:28:170:28:20

something for his collection,

0:28:200:28:21

and he rewarded them with pineapples from his garden

0:28:210:28:24

and bits of his writing.

0:28:240:28:26

So a lot of them were gifted?

0:28:260:28:28

-Yes.

-And that does also suggest that he was quite a popular chap...

0:28:280:28:31

-Very popular.

-..that people were willing to give him these things.

0:28:310:28:34

Yes. I think people were following the progress of this grotto,

0:28:340:28:37

and he was terribly fashionable.

0:28:370:28:39

He was visited by Voltaire and Johnson and all the

0:28:390:28:42

great names of the age.

0:28:420:28:44

And I must show you this.

0:28:450:28:47

He had weeping willows framing his garden.

0:28:470:28:50

This, after he died and after the willow died,

0:28:500:28:52

was brought into the grotto as a memory.

0:28:520:28:55

So this is all that survives of Pope's garden, isn't it?

0:28:550:28:57

It is. And in terms of the experience, then,

0:28:570:29:01

there were things that he put in place to make it more dramatic

0:29:010:29:04

-for his visitors, didn't he?

-Yes.

0:29:040:29:06

People would arrive here by boat and process up to the house through the

0:29:060:29:11

garden, which was lined with statues and so on,

0:29:110:29:14

and then through the grotto

0:29:140:29:16

to the five acres of garden behind.

0:29:160:29:19

Pope tried to create classical scenes in his garden.

0:29:190:29:22

Mirroring techniques used in landscape painting,

0:29:220:29:25

he cheated perspective and created long views and vistas.

0:29:250:29:29

It was a new approach to garden design,

0:29:290:29:31

and many people came to see his creation.

0:29:310:29:34

And we're talking lots and lots of guests that were coming

0:29:340:29:37

-through here.

-Lots of guests, yes.

0:29:370:29:38

He had very famous guests - like Johnson,

0:29:380:29:40

Swift and Gay - and he had parties of visitors who would come

0:29:400:29:44

and he would show them his gardens and his grotto.

0:29:440:29:47

Come this way.

0:29:470:29:48

Pope discovered a passion for geology as a result of

0:29:480:29:51

building the grotto.

0:29:510:29:53

He continued to develop it throughout his life.

0:29:530:29:55

He found a rill of the purest water which flowed through the grotto and

0:29:550:30:01

diagonally out the other side.

0:30:010:30:02

-Which was of great excitement.

-That's hugely...

0:30:020:30:04

That's hugely symbolic in an Arcadian sense, isn't it?

0:30:040:30:07

-Absolutely.

-The source of the water, the source of inspiration!

0:30:070:30:10

-Imagination.

-Am I right in thinking he had a glitter ball in here?

0:30:100:30:14

I think... I think it could be called that.

0:30:140:30:17

It was the orbicular globe that hung where he sat to write,

0:30:170:30:22

but he's certainly pictured sitting here, at his desk,

0:30:220:30:25

under his globe,

0:30:250:30:26

which was alabaster with sparkling minerals

0:30:260:30:30

reflecting the light from the river.

0:30:300:30:32

He would close the doors at either end

0:30:320:30:34

and the interior would sparkle from the light

0:30:340:30:37

through the holes in the doors.

0:30:370:30:39

It does sound to me like an 18th-century disco ball.

0:30:390:30:43

It really does!

0:30:430:30:44

And we think this is what it looked like.

0:30:440:30:47

JANINA GASPS

0:30:470:30:50

Strange coming out of the darkness of Pope's grotto to this.

0:31:010:31:06

The Thames. And what really has struck me thinking about

0:31:060:31:11

not just his poetry but what he does with his house

0:31:110:31:15

in Twickenham, it's as if there is a chain reaction that begins,

0:31:150:31:20

starting off with his ideas of classical Arcadia,

0:31:200:31:23

and then rippling out through his social network,

0:31:230:31:26

through his friends,

0:31:260:31:28

to be embodied either side of this stretch of the river.

0:31:280:31:32

By the early 1720s,

0:31:370:31:39

there was an explosion of interest in classical themes and ideas.

0:31:390:31:43

Pope's views on the natural world and garden design were

0:31:430:31:46

already attracting significant attention and patronage.

0:31:460:31:50

One of Pope's closest and most influential friends

0:31:520:31:55

lived next door to him in Twickenham,

0:31:550:31:57

and she was a member of the royal household.

0:31:570:32:00

This beautiful Palladian mansion behind me is Marble Hill House.

0:32:070:32:12

It was the home of King George II's mistress, Henrietta Howard.

0:32:120:32:17

Esme Whittaker can tell me how Henrietta and her social set

0:32:270:32:31

helped Pope's ideas spread beyond his gardens in Twickenham.

0:32:310:32:35

Hello, Esme. Lovely to see you.

0:32:350:32:37

Hi, nice to meet you. Welcome to Marble Hill.

0:32:370:32:39

-And here she is.

-Yes.

0:32:400:32:42

-Henrietta Howard.

-Yes.

0:32:420:32:43

She's a remarkable woman.

0:32:430:32:45

She actually overcame great personal adversity

0:32:450:32:48

to become a very influential person in the Georgian court.

0:32:480:32:52

She was part of the royal household,

0:32:520:32:54

so she was a woman of the bedchamber for Princess Caroline,

0:32:540:32:58

and perhaps more famously,

0:32:580:32:59

she was also the mistress of the Prince Regent,

0:32:590:33:02

so the future George II.

0:33:020:33:04

But she was also the friends of poets and of politicians,

0:33:040:33:07

and she was an architectural patron

0:33:070:33:09

and a collector of art and porcelain.

0:33:090:33:12

And she was known for her diplomacy.

0:33:120:33:14

She was actually nicknamed the Swiss,

0:33:140:33:16

which I think is an important quality

0:33:160:33:18

when you are in a court that's full of kind of gossip and scandal.

0:33:180:33:21

And, really, she was at the centre of the circle of poets and writers

0:33:210:33:26

that really followed her to here, to Marble Hill.

0:33:260:33:29

And Pope famously said that there was a greater court here now,

0:33:290:33:33

at Marble Hill, than at Kensington.

0:33:330:33:35

And it was a place where her friends could congregate

0:33:350:33:38

and also they really kind of made use of Marble Hill when it was still

0:33:380:33:41

under construction and before Henrietta had retired

0:33:410:33:45

from court.

0:33:450:33:46

So we know that friends such as Jonathan Swift

0:33:460:33:49

christened himself chief butler and keeper of the ice house.

0:33:490:33:53

And Pope had a meal here, actually, to celebrate the birth

0:33:530:33:57

of a female calf from the farm at Marble Hill.

0:33:570:34:00

It was sort of any excuse, I think, for a celebration.

0:34:000:34:02

"A cow has been born, let's have a party."

0:34:020:34:04

Exactly, exactly.

0:34:040:34:05

And he writes to Henrietta

0:34:050:34:07

how they celebrate with flesh and fish

0:34:070:34:10

and a lettuce from a Greek island called Cos

0:34:100:34:13

which obviously... Exotic at that time.

0:34:130:34:15

And that the housekeeper, Mrs Susan, offered them wine,

0:34:150:34:18

and it would just be rude to refuse, wouldn't it, really?

0:34:180:34:20

It was very much at the heart of the Twickenham set,

0:34:250:34:29

so one of the reasons why she was attracted to Twickenham

0:34:290:34:32

as an area was the fact that Alexander Pope had

0:34:320:34:35

already moved here, so that was one of the reasons why she decided

0:34:350:34:39

to build the villa here.

0:34:390:34:40

And that close relationship and friendship with Pope,

0:34:400:34:44

really, it's reflected in his poetry

0:34:440:34:46

but also in the fact that

0:34:460:34:47

he commissioned this portrait of Henrietta.

0:34:470:34:50

I think that what's very interesting as well

0:34:500:34:52

is the way she's being depicted there.

0:34:520:34:54

She looks so Arcadian, and she's pure, she's virtuous,

0:34:540:34:58

she's beautiful, and that's how Pope saw her.

0:34:580:35:01

Yeah, and this slightly informal dress, showing that it is a portrait

0:35:010:35:06

for a friend, but then also quite a direct gaze.

0:35:060:35:09

And I liked the way that she's posed in front of this landscape

0:35:090:35:13

so we actually think it's more of an infinite vista,

0:35:130:35:16

so alluding to the pastoral world of the poet.

0:35:160:35:18

In the 18th century, views and vistas

0:35:240:35:27

were becoming significant features in landscape design,

0:35:270:35:30

drawing the eye to prominent landmarks

0:35:300:35:33

and creating a sense of unity in the landscape,

0:35:330:35:35

which went well beyond the boundaries of your own garden.

0:35:350:35:39

John's next destination is the Great River Avenue at Ham Lands.

0:35:390:35:43

This avenue, which is part of the Ham House estate,

0:35:530:35:56

originally stretched

0:35:560:35:57

from the river bank opposite Pope's house right up to Richmond Hill.

0:35:570:36:01

It's now overgrown.

0:36:010:36:03

Rebecca Law and a team of volunteers are restoring the avenue back to its

0:36:050:36:09

18th-century state using traditional methods sympathetic to the

0:36:090:36:13

environment and in harmony with nature.

0:36:130:36:15

-Hi, Rebecca.

-You all right, John?

-How are you?

-Good.

0:36:170:36:19

Well, this looks fun, but it's more than that, isn't it?

0:36:190:36:21

It is indeed, yes.

0:36:210:36:23

We've been doing a lot of restoration

0:36:230:36:25

of historic vistas,

0:36:250:36:27

avenues and the landscape,

0:36:270:36:29

particularly around sort of the 18th-century sort of landscapes,

0:36:290:36:32

-particularly in this area.

-Come on.

0:36:320:36:35

This is the Great River Avenue,

0:36:350:36:36

which originally was from the view to Richmond Hill,

0:36:360:36:40

which is the Royal Star & Garter,

0:36:400:36:42

all the way down to what was Pope's villa in Twickenham.

0:36:420:36:45

What we would like to do is at least restore that view so you can get the

0:36:450:36:50

feeling and the sense of that avenue back.

0:36:500:36:52

And this project especially is quite nice because it's restoring a lost

0:36:540:37:00

avenue as well as doing a lot of diversity and habitat.

0:37:000:37:04

So it's not just about the people, it's not just about the history,

0:37:040:37:08

it's also about the wildlife.

0:37:080:37:11

To avoid damaging the environment,

0:37:110:37:13

the volunteers are not using any machinery.

0:37:130:37:15

Tom Nixon and his horse Murdoch are clearing the cut timber.

0:37:150:37:19

Basically, what we're doing here now is we're...

0:37:190:37:21

The volunteers have already cut all this brash and put it into nice tidy

0:37:210:37:24

bundles for us,

0:37:240:37:25

so basically we have the choke chain on the bundle of timber now

0:37:250:37:28

and we're going to hoop it into Murdoch's swingletree,

0:37:280:37:31

and then we're going to take it away.

0:37:310:37:33

This is Murdoch's job.

0:37:330:37:34

Among many more.

0:37:340:37:36

OK, walk on.

0:37:360:37:37

Chup! Chup!

0:37:370:37:38

Good lad. Come on, son.

0:37:390:37:41

Come on. Come up.

0:37:440:37:45

It's very important that we think of the horse's welfare as well,

0:37:480:37:51

so we don't give him too big a load to pull.

0:37:510:37:54

It's most important that he trusts us that we're not going to put him

0:37:540:37:57

into a dangerous area, and we never do that.

0:37:570:38:00

And on your side of things, Tom, I mean, obviously this is lifetime's

0:38:000:38:03

-experience, isn't it?

-Yeah, I'm working with horses all my life,

0:38:030:38:06

-John, to be honest with you.

-Yeah.

0:38:060:38:08

I've been with farm horses and forestry horses.

0:38:080:38:10

Come up. Come up.

0:38:100:38:13

Come up. Mind your face off them now, John.

0:38:130:38:15

Come up. That's the...

0:38:150:38:17

Come on, son.

0:38:170:38:18

Whoa.

0:38:190:38:20

Stand there now. That's my boy.

0:38:200:38:23

Just watching this scrub being pulled through, Tom,

0:38:230:38:26

that's good for the land in itself, isn't it?

0:38:260:38:28

Of course it is, John.

0:38:280:38:29

The load we're pulling, the branches and the brash,

0:38:290:38:31

it's opening back the brambles, it's taking them out of the way,

0:38:310:38:34

it's pulling them out by the roots, and this is leaving the forest floor

0:38:340:38:37

open, so come the spring time, the sunlight will get in,

0:38:370:38:40

it'll bring up our wild flowers

0:38:400:38:41

and hopefully a regeneration of our native oak trees.

0:38:410:38:44

So, basically, everything we do is good.

0:38:440:38:46

Every little part of this process is great for the environment.

0:38:460:38:49

Absolutely. We've been given a blank canvas to work here cos this

0:38:490:38:51

woodland has been ignored for so many years,

0:38:510:38:53

so it's important that we plan every step

0:38:530:38:55

and work it in the proper fashion.

0:38:550:38:57

Come on, son.

0:38:580:39:00

Good lad.

0:39:000:39:02

Walk on.

0:39:020:39:03

Come up. Come up.

0:39:050:39:08

Mind yourself there now, you don't get...

0:39:080:39:11

-Steady.

-So restoring these avenues is really going back to a 17th-,

0:39:110:39:17

18th-century plan, isn't it? There's nothing random about these.

0:39:170:39:20

No, no, these avenues were laid out

0:39:200:39:22

to link together the different villas and estates,

0:39:220:39:25

so Ham House, obviously it's a very important...

0:39:250:39:29

was an important estate.

0:39:290:39:30

You have Marble Hill over on the other side,

0:39:300:39:32

then you've got Hampton Court Palace further down.

0:39:320:39:35

And there were several smaller villas privately owned

0:39:350:39:39

that dotted the riverside,

0:39:390:39:41

and these avenues were that connection between those estates

0:39:410:39:45

for people to walk through and enjoy.

0:39:450:39:49

So it's using the river as that

0:39:490:39:51

connecting corridor to bounce the different parks and gardens and the

0:39:510:39:55

-elements across.

-It is that wonderful feeling of being out

0:39:550:39:59

-in the wild in the city, isn't it?

-It is. I mean, that's what we...

0:39:590:40:02

It's that Arcadian history and that Arcadian feel

0:40:020:40:06

that we really want to show.

0:40:060:40:08

Whoa.

0:40:080:40:11

Who's a good boy?

0:40:110:40:12

HE WHISPERS

0:40:120:40:14

That's the lad.

0:40:140:40:16

Back in Marble Hill on the other side of the river,

0:40:210:40:24

I'm discovering more about the 18th-century origins

0:40:240:40:27

of the Arcadian Thames.

0:40:270:40:29

It wasn't only landscape design that was being revolutionised at this

0:40:290:40:32

time, it was also architecture

0:40:320:40:35

that was being influenced by the classics.

0:40:350:40:38

Let's just take you into the Great Room

0:40:380:40:40

-and we can have a look at the Panini paintings.

-Fantastic!

0:40:400:40:43

I love Panini. Oh, wow.

0:40:430:40:45

Well, this is it, isn't it?

0:40:450:40:46

This is the classical tradition being fantastically realised

0:40:460:40:51

by the 18th-century imagination.

0:40:510:40:54

Yes. And these works were painted

0:40:540:40:56

by Giovanni Paolo Panini

0:40:560:40:58

in Rome in 1738,

0:40:580:41:01

so these are very much imaginary views.

0:41:010:41:04

So Rome didn't actually look like this.

0:41:040:41:06

This was very much a construct on the part of the artist to show,

0:41:060:41:09

to highlight all those kind of well-known features.

0:41:090:41:12

And they were very fashionable at the time as a type of souvenir for

0:41:120:41:17

English gentlemen who were going on the Grand Tour.

0:41:170:41:20

Glorified postcards, really.

0:41:200:41:21

-Yeah.

-But they're summing up what the Grand Tour is all about,

0:41:210:41:25

-aren't they?

-Yeah, so the Grand Tour is basically

0:41:250:41:28

the name that was given to these travels in Europe.

0:41:280:41:31

So it often followed a set route.

0:41:310:41:33

So the ultimate aim, really, was to go and visit Italy,

0:41:330:41:36

and in particular to go to Rome,

0:41:360:41:38

and it was very much seen as a prerequisite

0:41:380:41:41

of a young gentleman's education.

0:41:410:41:43

So it was a chance to learn languages,

0:41:430:41:46

learn about art and architecture,

0:41:460:41:48

and also it was a great opportunity to shop.

0:41:480:41:51

So they bought classical statuary and paintings

0:41:510:41:54

and even fans and perfume.

0:41:540:41:56

And Lord Burlington,

0:41:560:41:58

who owns Chiswick House, it's known that when he came back

0:41:580:42:01

from his first Grand Tour,

0:42:010:42:03

he actually brought 878 trunks of purchases back with him.

0:42:030:42:08

-That's some serious shopping, my goodness!

-Serious shopping.

0:42:080:42:11

The Grand Tour was not only an excuse for young gentlemen

0:42:130:42:16

to shop and visit ancient ruins,

0:42:160:42:19

it also introduced them to the works of Andrea Palladio,

0:42:190:42:22

a 16th-century Italian architect.

0:42:220:42:24

Inspired by the buildings of ancient Rome,

0:42:260:42:28

he developed a theory of ideal proportions in buildings

0:42:280:42:31

known as Palladianism.

0:42:310:42:33

Early designs at the Marble Hill were by the architect Colen Campbell

0:42:330:42:37

who was one of the key promoters of the Palladian style in Britain.

0:42:370:42:42

And he published a work called Vitruvius Britannicus

0:42:420:42:45

which was a survey of the national architecture,

0:42:450:42:48

but in the introduction of it, he's really promoting Palladio.

0:42:480:42:51

And actually, the early design for Marble Hill features in the third

0:42:510:42:55

edition of this book.

0:42:550:42:56

And this symmetry of Palladian architecture

0:42:560:42:59

and its classical origins perfectly match the emerging taste

0:42:590:43:02

for the naturalised landscape garden.

0:43:020:43:04

Am I right in thinking that it's actually Pope,

0:43:040:43:07

with the royal gardener Charles Bridgeman,

0:43:070:43:10

who designed Henrietta's garden?

0:43:100:43:12

Yes, that's correct.

0:43:120:43:13

So we know that Pope and Bridgeman and Henrietta all met on-site here,

0:43:130:43:17

at Marble Hill, in 1724 in order to plan the gardens.

0:43:170:43:21

Was it designed along similar lines to Pope's garden, then?

0:43:210:43:25

There certainly were some similar features. For example, we know that

0:43:250:43:28

she had a grotto, actually two grottoes.

0:43:280:43:30

It had serpentine paths

0:43:300:43:32

and also these wonderful terraced lawns running down to the Thames.

0:43:320:43:35

Henrietta was not the only friend to be inspired by Pope

0:43:410:43:43

and the classical landscapes of the past.

0:43:430:43:46

Lord Burlington was a great patron of the arts.

0:43:460:43:50

He had the money and influence to experiment with architecture

0:43:500:43:53

and garden design on a grand scale.

0:43:530:43:56

Known as the Architect Earl,

0:43:560:43:57

he's credited with bringing Palladian architecture to Britain.

0:43:570:44:01

Burlington took the Palladian revival very seriously,

0:44:010:44:04

so he actually went on a second Grand Tour to Italy

0:44:040:44:08

specifically to study Palladio's buildings.

0:44:080:44:11

And he also started to acquire Palladio's drawings.

0:44:110:44:15

So he amassed this wonderful library of drawings which he could use

0:44:150:44:18

as a reference tool when he was designing his villa, Chiswick House.

0:44:180:44:22

And he was able to basically promote the style much more widely by using

0:44:220:44:26

his influence to secure places through his proteges,

0:44:260:44:29

so the likes of the designer William Kent,

0:44:290:44:32

which meant that the style could be disseminated

0:44:320:44:34

much more widely and become a national style.

0:44:340:44:36

Absolutely, and that's why when we still walk down

0:44:360:44:38

our high streets today,

0:44:380:44:39

you will see this classically inspired architecture.

0:44:390:44:42

-It's all coming from around here at that moment.

-It is, yes.

0:44:420:44:46

I've come to Chiswick House

0:44:540:44:55

to see Lord Burlington's creation for myself -

0:44:550:44:58

a classical Palladian villa set

0:44:580:45:00

in one of the last remaining early examples of

0:45:000:45:03

an English landscape garden.

0:45:030:45:05

The gardens here at Chiswick House were designed by Lord Burlington,

0:45:050:45:09

Charles Bridgeman and William Kent.

0:45:090:45:12

They are believed by many to be a grander version of Alexander Pope's

0:45:120:45:16

gardens in Twickenham.

0:45:160:45:18

But what a long way garden design had come in just over 20 years,

0:45:180:45:23

from the formal gardens at Hampton Court to this.

0:45:230:45:26

John Watkins is a specialist

0:45:320:45:33

in the origins of the English landscape movement.

0:45:330:45:37

John, we are here in Chiswick,

0:45:380:45:40

but what is it that's so important

0:45:400:45:42

about the landscape, the gardens here,

0:45:420:45:44

in terms of English landscape design?

0:45:440:45:47

I think most important is its influence

0:45:470:45:50

and the fact that it's still here.

0:45:500:45:52

Lord Burlington,

0:45:520:45:53

being a member of the House of Lords and having his properties near

0:45:530:45:56

London, was in a very good position to be able to influence his set

0:45:560:46:01

and influence people who are interested

0:46:010:46:04

in architecture and landscape.

0:46:040:46:06

And he gathered around him...

0:46:060:46:08

..artists, playwrights, architects and most importantly gardeners.

0:46:090:46:14

So, Lord Burlington is the patron, but who's actually here,

0:46:140:46:17

on the ground, doing the design of it?

0:46:170:46:21

So, Bridgeman probably was the first person to aid

0:46:210:46:24

some of the initial designs here.

0:46:240:46:26

But two other key people were Pope and Kent.

0:46:260:46:30

In fact, what is interesting,

0:46:300:46:32

Burlington met Kent in Italy, and I think it's that strong influence of

0:46:320:46:38

Italian gardens of ancient Rome that influenced, in particular,

0:46:380:46:43

the early phases and also the latter phases of the gardens here.

0:46:430:46:47

And Kent was hugely important

0:46:470:46:50

because he was able to illustrate

0:46:500:46:53

both what was in his mind

0:46:530:46:55

but also what was in Pope's mind and also Burlington's.

0:46:550:46:58

Burlington inherited the original estate at Chiswick in 1715

0:46:580:47:03

and started work on the gardens soon after.

0:47:030:47:05

However, it wasn't until the late 1720s that Kent,

0:47:050:47:09

Burlington and others started to soften the design,

0:47:090:47:12

reducing its formality.

0:47:120:47:13

-If we look at this plan here...

-Yeah.

0:47:170:47:18

..what we can see is the original garden here,

0:47:180:47:22

on the north side of the image,

0:47:220:47:25

and there you can see very, very formal features.

0:47:250:47:27

You've got groves, you've got single avenues,

0:47:270:47:31

you've got the goose foot.

0:47:310:47:32

And if we look just south of the house,

0:47:320:47:34

you see a very formal lawn in this plan, with a maze here.

0:47:340:47:37

Towards the end of his life,

0:47:370:47:39

the hedges and the trees were removed.

0:47:390:47:41

This became an informal lawn with a view over the lake.

0:47:410:47:45

And this is where sort of Walpole described that Kent jumped the fence

0:47:450:47:50

-and saw that all nature was a garden.

-Oh, I love that!

-Yeah.

0:47:500:47:53

If you think that that simple lawn influenced

0:47:580:48:02

many of the great gardens,

0:48:020:48:04

and Capability Brown took that idea and did it on a grand scale

0:48:040:48:08

right the way round the country...

0:48:080:48:09

And you go to places like Central Park in New York,

0:48:090:48:13

those ideas are then taken further.

0:48:130:48:15

Let's go and see the transition from the formal to the informal.

0:48:150:48:18

And, of course, there's a lovely link with these obelisks -

0:48:280:48:31

because there's two obelisks here -

0:48:310:48:33

and the great importance of Pope.

0:48:330:48:35

You've got the obelisk that he built

0:48:350:48:37

in his garden to commemorate his mother.

0:48:370:48:39

Pope was a poet. How was he influencing garden design?

0:48:390:48:42

If you think he was a great poet, an ideas man...

0:48:420:48:46

And Pope was a romantic,

0:48:460:48:48

and of course gardens are the ultimate romantic feature.

0:48:480:48:52

And so, as a very enthusiastic amateur garden designer,

0:48:520:48:57

he was taking ideas that he had in his mind

0:48:570:49:00

and trying them out at home.

0:49:000:49:02

And his influence is...is massive

0:49:020:49:06

because bigger practical people

0:49:060:49:09

then took his ideas and developed them further.

0:49:090:49:12

You add in Burlington, you add in Kent,

0:49:120:49:15

and you've got the ideal recipe.

0:49:150:49:17

Then the challenge is saying,

0:49:170:49:19

where does one influence come in and one finish?

0:49:190:49:21

That is what is so fascinating.

0:49:210:49:24

And yet, I suppose, at the heart of all of it is that shared ideal

0:49:240:49:27

of Arcadia.

0:49:270:49:28

Yes, that's what links it all together.

0:49:280:49:30

For centuries, European formality

0:49:360:49:39

had been imported in to English gardens,

0:49:390:49:43

like those at Hampton Court.

0:49:430:49:45

But in less than three decades,

0:49:450:49:48

ideas of what comprised a beautiful landscape

0:49:480:49:52

had changed beyond all recognition.

0:49:520:49:55

The English landscape garden style was rapidly adopted

0:50:050:50:08

in gardens of great houses throughout the country,

0:50:080:50:11

as baroque formality was replaced

0:50:110:50:13

by gardens created to look pastoral and natural.

0:50:130:50:17

Arcadian.

0:50:170:50:18

Jason. I'm John.

0:50:230:50:25

What a place to meet!

0:50:250:50:26

-This is real Aladdin's cave, isn't it?

-It is wonderful, isn't it?

0:50:260:50:29

This is Richmond Bridge Boathouse,

0:50:290:50:31

where so many of these incredible wooden boats that characterise

0:50:310:50:34

this part of the Thames are made.

0:50:340:50:36

MOTOR REVS

0:50:360:50:38

Jason Debney, a landscape historian,

0:50:420:50:45

and his skipper have offered to take John to one of the last remaining

0:50:450:50:48

18th-century Arcadian landscapes on the Thames.

0:50:480:50:52

Jason, you're a landscape historian, what does that entail?

0:50:560:51:01

Being a landscape historian in this part of the world is about

0:51:010:51:04

understanding how the landscape developed historically,

0:51:040:51:08

understanding how this glorious landscape got to where it is,

0:51:080:51:11

but finding ways to take it into the future.

0:51:110:51:13

Most people think being a historian is about the past but,

0:51:130:51:17

in a landscape such as this, it's not.

0:51:170:51:19

It's all about the future.

0:51:190:51:20

This is Syon Reach,

0:51:250:51:26

a stretch of the Thames bordered by two of the most significant designed

0:51:260:51:30

landscapes in Britain -

0:51:300:51:32

Kew Gardens on one side and Syon Park on the other.

0:51:320:51:35

The landscape at Syon was designed by William Kent's protege,

0:51:370:51:41

Lancelot Brown,

0:51:410:51:43

better known as Capability Brown.

0:51:430:51:45

It's the only remaining natural river bank in Greater London.

0:51:480:51:52

We now coming to Syon House over here.

0:51:550:51:57

The meadows here flood twice a day, don't they, Jason?

0:51:570:52:01

They do, yeah. That's one of the things that makes it so special.

0:52:010:52:04

It depends on the state of the tide.

0:52:040:52:06

Because different tides have different heights, obviously,

0:52:060:52:09

throughout the month.

0:52:090:52:12

And that creates a very special landscape,

0:52:120:52:14

in the way that on very high spring tides all of the meadow is inundated

0:52:140:52:18

-with water.

-So it's forcing its way down these creeks and channels.

0:52:180:52:22

It is, yeah, covering most of the meadow in there.

0:52:220:52:25

What that has given us is a progression of different habitats,

0:52:250:52:29

moving from the dry land through to the wetter land by the river.

0:52:290:52:32

And each of those habitats has a different types of species on it -

0:52:320:52:36

so the species that love the wetter habitat down by the river

0:52:360:52:40

and the grassland species that like the drier habitat

0:52:400:52:43

up towards the house at the top of the meadow.

0:52:430:52:45

And what sorts of plants would we expect to find there?

0:52:450:52:47

Well, along the river edge here,

0:52:470:52:49

we've got this wonderful native reed, we've got angelica,

0:52:490:52:53

water dropwort, watermint.

0:52:530:52:55

And, of course, in the summer, it's just a mass of purple

0:52:550:53:00

from the loosestrife that thrives along the river bank.

0:53:000:53:03

But that's where it's so lovely coming along the river

0:53:030:53:05

on a winter's day like this,

0:53:050:53:06

because we can actually see through the line of trees

0:53:060:53:09

and vegetation here so we can have a look at the meadows beyond.

0:53:090:53:13

Right, and what does happen beyond?

0:53:130:53:16

Well, beyond the flood meadows is a classic Capability Brown landscape.

0:53:160:53:19

What Capability Brown did, of course, here was to sweep away

0:53:390:53:42

the formality of the baroque garden.

0:53:420:53:44

It's got all the elements that you would expect over here,

0:53:440:53:47

in a Capability Brown landscape.

0:53:470:53:49

It's got the ha-ha. It's got temples, it's got Arcadian statues.

0:53:490:53:53

We've got clumps of trees which allow us to see in

0:53:530:53:56

and connect the two sides of the landscape.

0:53:560:53:58

We've got flooded streams creating lakes.

0:53:580:54:01

Arcadian temples.

0:54:010:54:03

You name it, it is a typical Capability Brown landscape.

0:54:030:54:07

What an extraordinary journey,

0:54:240:54:26

from gardens designed with mathematical precision

0:54:260:54:29

to landscapes created to emulate Arcadia,

0:54:290:54:33

a pastoral idyll

0:54:330:54:34

where man and nature coexist in harmony.

0:54:340:54:37

This 12-mile stretch of the Thames

0:54:450:54:47

became the focus of a cultural movement

0:54:470:54:49

which changed the face of our English countryside.

0:54:490:54:53

Ideas expressed in art, poetry,

0:54:530:54:55

architecture and gardening had fused together,

0:54:550:54:58

and the naturalised English landscape was born.

0:54:580:55:02

For the first time, a designed landscape was considered

0:55:150:55:18

as a collective whole,

0:55:180:55:20

comprising all that the eye can see.

0:55:200:55:23

Incredibly, some of the more far-reaching views,

0:55:230:55:26

such as this one to St Paul's,

0:55:260:55:28

are still visible today.

0:55:280:55:30

And at the heart of it all is the Thames,

0:55:350:55:38

eulogised and elevated by poets and painters as more beautiful

0:55:380:55:42

than the rivers of antiquity.

0:55:420:55:44

But there is one final place to visit before John and I finish our

0:55:450:55:49

journey. And one more view to see.

0:55:490:55:53

The only view in Britain protected by an act of Parliament.

0:55:530:55:57

Here, on Richmond Hill.

0:55:570:55:59

We're meeting Sir David Attenborough and Kim Wilkie,

0:56:010:56:04

patron and founder of the Thames Landscape Strategy,

0:56:040:56:07

an organisation which aims to restore and protect

0:56:070:56:10

the Arcadian Thames for future generations.

0:56:100:56:13

Well, I don't know quite what patrons are supposed to do,

0:56:130:56:16

but whatever it is they're supposed to do, I hope I'm doing it.

0:56:160:56:19

And, I mean, as a local, I am very concerned with this wonderful view.

0:56:190:56:24

And if someone asks you to help preserve such a thing,

0:56:240:56:27

how can you say no?

0:56:270:56:28

So I help in whatever way they ask me to do.

0:56:280:56:31

The strategy itself cares about the natural world.

0:56:310:56:34

I mean, think of other parts of the Thames,

0:56:340:56:37

where this place would be covered by skyscrapers,

0:56:370:56:40

but here we've got grass.

0:56:400:56:41

And we look over there, and there's more grass.

0:56:410:56:43

And it's been like that for a long time, and our intention is

0:56:430:56:46

it should stay like that for a long time.

0:56:460:56:49

And it is definitely about that, isn't it?

0:56:490:56:50

It's about creating a true relationship

0:56:500:56:53

between man and nature within London.

0:56:530:56:56

I think it's the notion that the river is the centre of things

0:56:560:57:00

and not a divider of things.

0:57:000:57:03

And that's what has been brought about.

0:57:030:57:06

The English landscape movement was kind of a revolution

0:57:060:57:09

in political and scientific thought

0:57:090:57:11

-which started with Alexander Pope.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:57:110:57:14

And really started up here

0:57:140:57:15

on this hill, looking out over that river and that bend in the river.

0:57:150:57:20

So this stretch of the Thames is really at the complete heart

0:57:200:57:26

of that whole English landscape thought and political science

0:57:260:57:32

that happened at that time.

0:57:320:57:34

It was a completely different way of looking at the world,

0:57:340:57:38

and the idea of man in the middle of nature rather than separate from it

0:57:380:57:43

had huge implications.

0:57:430:57:44

Is this Arcadia?

0:57:500:57:52

Well, for me it is. I've got all the advantages of the city,

0:57:520:57:55

which London brings to me,

0:57:550:57:56

but all the...many of the advantages of living

0:57:560:57:59

where nature is still visible.

0:57:590:58:01

Just to have this amount of green space,

0:58:010:58:05

this natural space, in such a huge city

0:58:050:58:08

is wonderful, and it's what keeps us sane,

0:58:080:58:11

and that ultimately is the biggest challenge for cities

0:58:110:58:13

in this coming century.

0:58:130:58:15

And also, 100 years goes past very fast.

0:58:150:58:17

THEY LAUGH

0:58:170:58:20

Hang about!

0:58:200:58:21

Dr Janina Ramirez goes 'In Search of Arcadia' discovering the origins of the English landscape movement in a 12-mile stretch of the Thames between Hampton and Chiswick with waterman and historian John Bailey.

In the early 18th century this stretch of the river was home to a group of writers, poets, artists and garden designers who were inspired by classical landscapes of antiquity and the ancient idea of Arcadia.

Janina discovers the people and the ideas at the heart of this transformative movement and the landscape of the Thames - Nicholas Poussin's painting Et in Arcadia Ego, the French formal gardens at Hampton Court, Pope's Grotto, Marble Hill House, Chiswick House, Syon Meadows and finally the view from Richmond Hill.

John unpacks the role the River Thames played in their story as he explores the natural riches of its shores. He has time for fishing and contemplation along the way with his guide - Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler.

Janina starts with the most famous of Arcadian paintings, Et in Arcadia Ego by Nicholas Poussin, at Garrick's Temple in Hampton. She explains the ancient concept of Arcadia - a lost paradise where man and nature lived in perfect harmony. It's an idea that emerges in many cultures, but in Britain in the 17th and 18th century this ancient philosophy inspired a revolution in painting, writing, architecture and garden design.

Janina and John set off down the Thames on a traditional Thames wherry. John gives Janina his copy of Izaak Walton's fishing manual The Compleat Angler. Published in 1653 it's a book that has been reprinted over 400 times. John and Janina discover the book is much more than a practical fishing manual. It is also a philosophic treatise in which Izaak Walton first proposed an Arcadian philosophy; a vision of a world where man and nature lived in perfect harmony. He suggested that through the studied contemplation of the landscape, mankind could achieve a higher moral wisdom and virtuous understanding of the universe.

Janina and John arrive at Hampton Court Palace. John experiences Walton's philosophy first-hand, angling with fellow Walton enthusiast Keith Elliott. Janina explores the magnificent but formal Privy Gardens, commissioned by William III in 1702. Janina contemplates how at odds this formal garden is with the idea of a pastoral Arcadia. The formal French garden is beautiful and perfect, but nature is enslaved in it. This is very different to Izaak Walton's idea of Arcadia where man and nature co-exist in a perfect pastoral idyll. Two of Britain's greatest writers and poets, Joseph Addison and Alexander Pope, started a quiet rebellion against this subjugation of nature by publishing satirical articles in the Spectator and the Guardian.

Janina meets Dr Ross Wilson, a professor of English literature, in one of the oldest pubs in Twickenham. He explains why Pope - a writer - is often considered the true architect of the Arcadian movement. Pope built a house and a garden in Twickenham. They were demolished years ago, but one feature of the original estate still remains - Pope's Grotto. This man-made cavern became a retreat for Pope and is often considered the first museum of geology in Britain.

Next is Marble Hill House, home of King George II's mistress Henrietta Howard, a great friend and patron of Pope and the arts. Dr Esme Whittaker explains that Henrietta's patronage helped to accelerate the spread of this emerging cultural movement which sought to recreate classical scenes in the landscape.

Meanwhile, John is at Ham Lands with a group of volunteers restoring an original avenue using 'Arcadian' methods.

Palladian architecture also perfectly matched the emerging taste for naturalised gardens. These ideas were taken to the next level by wealthy and influential patrons including Lord Burlington. At Chiswick, Janina visits his Palladian villa set in one of the last remaining early examples of an English landscape garden. Joined by John Watkins, a specialist in the English landscape movement, she finds out how the ideas first expressed in Pope's garden were translated by others to create the naturalised garden at Chiswick.

Lord Burlington designed these gardens with royal gardener Charles Bridgeman and William Kent, whose famous protege was Capability Brown. And to see how Brown took these ideas to the next level, John heads out on the river with landscape historian Jason Debney to see one of the last remaining 18th-century Arcadian landscapes at Syon Meadows.

Finally Janina and John meet Sir David Attenborough and Kim Wilkie, patron and founder of the Thames Landscape Strategy on Richmond Hill overlooking the only view in Britain protected by act of Parliament. This view inspired JMW Turner to paint his famous landscape Richmond Hill in 1820, and it has barely changed since then. So if you had to sum up Arcadia in a word, a poem, a painting or a view - perhaps this is it.