The Sleeping Wood at Stowe
A romantic story lies behind the historic design of the Sleeping Wood at Stowe. Delve into the deeper meanings from the tale of Sleeping Beauty that inspired this magical part of the Western Garden.
History of The Sleeping Wood
This wilderness garden was designed by Charles Bridgeman and John Vanborough with the Sleeping Parlour being built by 1725. It was purposely made to disorientate those that walked within it. Inside the centre of the wood you'd find the Sleeping Parlour with the interior decorated with murals and a message – ‘Since all things are uncertain, indulge thyself.’
The themes and areas of the large gardens at Stowe can be split onto three topics, Vice, Virtue and Liberty. The Sleeping Wood sits along the Path of Vice, a trail which invites you along a route to see temples and views that reflect love and lust.
The design of the Sleeping Wood at Stowe inspired by Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty in the Wood circa 1697. Charles Perrault’s moral from this story was that women should not rush into marriage, that love is worth waiting for.
It's up to you after discovering the stories of indulgence and its consequences where to go next. Do you remain in the Wood waiting for Love, return to the Path of Vice or move on to find virtue and liberty?
To physically represent this story, the Sleeping Parlour was set in a mazy wood, with closet paths winding through the shrubberies, but all the alleys led to the centre with the parlour in the middle of a secret clearing. The topic of sleep was signified by the grotesque grinning masks on the urns on the buildings walls – now relocated on the Oxford Bridge.
The gardeners have restored the Wood to its former glory, re-creating the twisting paths and wooded planting. Though you can now only see the base of the Sleeping Parlour in the ground, you can get a feel for what it looked like by taking a closer look the benches – they are carved with the faces originally on the Parlour urns.
A special stone slab has been laid at the foot of where the parlour once stood engraved with the original quote ‘Since all things are uncertain, indulge thyself.’
Formal to fashionably relaxed
The gardens at Stowe went through periods of changes. Originally designed in a formal layout with straight avenues leading to direct views and an octagon shaped lake, everything was transformed when the landscape movement swept country gardens to become more naturalised.
The Sleeping Wood sits to the left of one of the main avenues and with time was exanded and could be discovered on a new variety of paths as the gardens were changed to reflect the new fashion.
When you find your way to the centre of the Wood, share your picture with us: #indulgethyself on Twitter.