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Corinthian Bridge

An elaborate classical reference Take me here now

Make sure your volume is on: "Sir George talks about the Corinthian Bridge"

Show transcript

And now another bridge, a real classical beauty. I call this one the "Corinthian Bridge" because it has those very distinctive Corinthian-style columns, you see, the ones with the leaves at the top. Very lovely, and perfectly proportioned, if you design it right.

I don’t know if the design actually comes from Corinth, that’s not my speciality... I got this particular design straight out of a book, if you must know. “Hints on Ornamental Gardening”, by John Buonarotti Papworth; marvellous chap, fellow after my own heart, at least when it comes to garden design.

The full title of the book was “Hints on Ornamental Gardening, Consisting of a Series of Designs for Garden Buildings, Useful and Decorative Gates, Fences, Railings, &c.: Accompanied by Observations on the Principles and Theory of Rural Improvement, Interspersed with Occasional Remarks on Rural Architecture.” Phew! What a mouthful! He was very good at gardening but rubbish at picking book titles! Apparently, he also wrote a very influential article on dry rot...

Anyway, there it was on Plate Nine, “A Bridge and Temple”, and I thought to myself, “George, old boy, that’s it! That’s what my new lake needs!” And so I built one… it looks superb in all the pictures.

George Staunton was keen on bridges - by the time he had finished his garden there were five of them in total. This one was the grandest, which was described as "a brick bridge, of one arch, surmounted with a Corinthian Portico, and placed across the chief outlet. It is taken from a design in Papworth's Garden Architecture."

The 'Corinthian' name comes from the type of column used in the design. Classical Greek architecture defined the Corinthian style as having a slim fluted column with an ornate carved top showing acanthus leaves. 

Staunton admits that his design was not original, but copied from one by John Buonarotti Papworth, a prolific architect of the early 19th century.

Papworth's 1823 book had a great title:

'Hints on ornamental gardening: consisting of a series of designs for garden buildings, useful and decorative gates, fences, railroads, &c.: accompanied by observations on the principles and theory of rural improvement, interspersed with occasional remarks on rural architecture.'

Given what we know of George Staunton's love of rural improvement, it was probably his bedside reading.

You can see Papworth's design on Plate IX at this link, or the whole book at this link, courtesy of the Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture.

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