The ancient Greek and Roman gods have been the main inspiration for statues in British gardens since tudor times. In Renaissance Italy, the gardens of the wealthy aristocracy were strewn with antique stone and marble figures of Classical gods, such as Venus, Aphrodite, Apollo, Diana and Mercury. This was much admired by Northern European landscape designers of the period, who then introduced the classical style into British garden design.
From the 18th to 19th Century statue making again flourished, this time increasing in range, styles and materials to include lions, dogs, fauns, nymphs, putti, gladiators and dolphins. Lions often stand guard on steps or in doorways, classical figures would be found in key positions on paths or terraces, dolphins, nymphs and cherubs could be found in fountains. Henry Cheere and John van Nost were well known sculptors of the late 18th Century, producing works in stone and lead. Also in the late 1700s, the technique of producing artificial stone or 'composition stone' for casting copies of statues was perfected by Coade and John Sealy among others, a tradition which continues to this day.
Although the classical gods continue to be popular, the 20th Century saw an interest in the use of abstract art to decorate British Gardens, with all manner of free-flowing shapes in stone, granite, marble, bronze and other materials.