The importance of looking ‘beyond’

Eight years ago, I taught two classes for people heavily interested in Dutch garden history. My classes dealt with the period in Dutch garden history where the landscape style was introduced. Lagging behind in cultural developments as ‘we’ were in the greater part of the eighteenth century, this style of garden architecture did not enter our country before 1750, most likely not until 1755. 1In 2005 even that date was considered ridiculously early; 1760s was the prevailing opinion. That still is the decade in which the new style had its breakthrough.
The number of visual examples of what the earliest steps of that style entailed in our country, is limited. So I mainly referred to English and French examples. At some point, one of the students remarked that he had come to this class to study Dutch garden history, and wondered why we were looking at all these foreign examples.
It took me a while to recover from this kind of narrow-mindedness. 2Although I also realised that I somehow hadn’t brought the message across, that after decades of leading the pack, Dutch garden architecture during that particular area had no other choice than to look abroad for relevant new developments. Examples of unexpected influence from other regions or abroad always fill me with joy since then. And fellow garden history blogger TuinTerTijd now found a brilliant example: the driepuntsbrug.

Driepuntsbrug
Yes, that is a Dutch term and again I do not have an English one at hand. The easiest way I can show what it refers to, is to copy the two drawings Arinda van der Does at TuinTerTijd published earlier this week, along with the original description:
Driepuntsbrug_Wetteren

“Among the ornamental structures may be mentioned a kind of triple bridge, and a lofty pagoda. The bridge passes over the canal, at a place where it diverges into three branches: some idea may be formed of the structure, by conceiving the three arches to spring from the three angles of an equilateral triangle, and all to meet in the centre. At this central point, several neat columns support a slight dome over a circular space, and form it into a kind of temple. The sketch in Plate IV., although partly done from memory, will convey a more distinct idea than the most laboured description.”

TuinTerTijd rightly refers to a post by Cascade, where Dutch examples of this kind of bridge (without the pagoda) are shown in a series of photographs. This type of bridge has long been considered a trademark of Lucas Pieters Roodbaard (1782-1851) who almost exclusively worked in the northern Dutch provinces. Recently his successor Gerrit Vlaskamp (1834-1906) has been referred to as having made these bridges as well (at Vijversburg, for example).

The example in the Belgian village of Wetteren is dated earlier than all of the known Dutch examples: the journal of the caledonian horticultural society is the reflection of a trip made by a delegation of them in the autumn of 1817. The earliest Dutch example is from halfway the 1820s. The ‘madame Vilain quatorze’ probably refers to Thérèse Caroline van de Woestyne (1762-1862 [? source]), who was maried to Charles Joseph François Vilain XIIII (died 1808). 3A rather trustful looking source calls her Marie-Charlotte (1762-1827). See the first comment below this post. Her husband joined the patriots around 1790 and was demoted after they lost their initial battle. During the French reign over The Netherlands (1795-1813) Charles became mayor of Wetteren (source). The bridge was probably created somewhere between 1795 and 1817. 4Note: the village of Wetteren, where this particular bridge was located, is in the province of Oost-Vlaanderen, which at the time belonged to the Netherlands (till Belgium split from The Netherlands in the revolution of 1830). It was called the Scheldedepartement during the French occupation and Oost-Vlaanderen from 1813 onwards. ‘Foreign’ is a tricky term in this case.

The main point now is, that in a country that is even smaller than it was before 1830, this type of bridge up till now seemed to be a predominanlty regional affaire: we see no historical examples of this type of bridge other than in the northern provinces of the Netherlands. The map below shows how far the Wetteren bridge (purple) is from the other known examples (blue):

Driepuntsbruggen / triple bridges weergeven op een grotere kaart

This -at the time- southern example suddenly widens the playing field and leads to the following questions: are there any other non-Dutch examples of this type of bridge? Could these examples have influenced or inspired Dutch garden architects around 1825? And how did that happen?

I’m looking forward to examples and ideas.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. In 2005 even that date was considered ridiculously early; 1760s was the prevailing opinion. That still is the decade in which the new style had its breakthrough.
2. Although I also realised that I somehow hadn’t brought the message across, that after decades of leading the pack, Dutch garden architecture during that particular area had no other choice than to look abroad for relevant new developments.
3. A rather trustful looking source calls her Marie-Charlotte (1762-1827). See the first comment below this post.
4. Note: the village of Wetteren, where this particular bridge was located, is in the province of Oost-Vlaanderen, which at the time belonged to the Netherlands (till Belgium split from The Netherlands in the revolution of 1830). It was called the Scheldedepartement during the French occupation and Oost-Vlaanderen from 1813 onwards. ‘Foreign’ is a tricky term in this case.
Summary

The triple bridge (driepuntsbrug) does not seem to be confined to the Northern Netherlands after all. In fact, it may have originated abroad (*gasp*).

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4 Comments

  1. The garden could have been at Kasteel van Gransvelde in Wetteren, to the north of the Schelde river. The name of ‘madame Vilian XIIII’ was probably Marie-Charlotte van de Woestyne, (1762-1827).

    This website has a lot of detailed information (in Dutch):
    https://inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be/dibe/relict/84882

    (Info Courtesy Arinda van der Does/TuinTerTijd)

  2. A new post by TuinterTijd shows that J.C. Loudon also described the garden (in English):
    http://www.tuintertijd.nl/weblog/de-tuinen-van-madame-vilain-quatorze/

  3. Concerning driepuntsbruggen / triple bridges, I earlier questioned whether Roodbaard was inspired by Blum. And was Blum not originating from Germany? (first name Georg Anton makes one believe so). Do we know triple bridges in Germany, possible inspirational sources for Blum?

    [HvdE edited this to add the link to Jan’s remark about Blum, and the context:]
    http://www.cascade1987.nl/driepuntsbrug-stania-state/#comment-1455

  4. Take a look at:

    http://www.tuintertijd.nl/weblog/driepuntsbrug-in-de-environs-van-parijs/

    for a Triple Pont in the environs of Paris. Still not German so ;-)

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