This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown - so named because he would quip to his clients that their landscapes had ‘great capabilities’! During an illustrious career, Brown designed over 170 parklands and changed the face of Eighteenth century England.
Famous for his grand vistas which involved moving hills, creating huge areas of woodland and sculpting magical lakes, Brown’s designs still influence every landscaper and garden architect around the world.
Below are our choice of Capability Brown’s best work and why they still enthral visitors centuries after they were first planted.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
With it’s grand lake, dense woodland and beautiful Grand Cascades waterfall, Blenheim is one of Brown’s largest and most photographed landscapes. The famous parkland includes a preserved woodland of ancient trees that date back to the 12th Century and have been found to be the oldest in Europe. Over the past 3 centuries, later additions to the park include formal Italian gardens, water terraces and of course the Sir Winston Churchill Gardens, all of which ensure this amazing landscape continues to attract thousands of visitors each year.
Stowe is where it all began for Capability Brown, as Head Gardener he was able to ply his trade and hone the artistic talents which would lead him to create the countries best loved landscapes. His vision was to provide shades of green with large expanses of grass framed by trees and reflected in stunning stretches of water.
At Stowe, Lord Cobham wanted more than a garden. Set out to reveal his beliefs about politics and morality - Vice, Virtue or Liberty, the grounds are liberally sprinkled with temples and the Lord Cobham Pillar depicting him as a roman warrior.
Various events are being run throughout the year as well as an exhibition celebrating Brown’s life.
Harewood House, West Yorkshire
Work began on Harewood’s landscape in 1776 taking five years to transform the parkland from agricultural fields to the beautiful vistas you see today - sweeping parkland, dense woodland, a tranquil lake and formal parterres.
An exhibition - Nature, Design and Capability Brown runs until the end of October.
Audley End, Essex
In the mid-18th century Capability Brown was enlisted to re-landscape the grounds of this great house under the stewardship of Sir John Griffin. The forecourt walls were demolished to open up extensive views and a serpentine lake was created to span the width of the park. The Cedar of Lebanon planted close to the house dates from Brown’s time. Another famous name Robert Adam, designed the bridge and surviving temples that adorn this beautiful estate.
Petworth, West Sussex
A classic Capability Brown landscape, the beautiful estate at Petworth has over 700 acres of parkland, wooded copse and a stunning serpentine lake. Sinuous paths lead from the mansion around the park, leading to the Doric Temple and Ionic Rotunda sited to provide impressive views back to the house.
Follow the Capability Brown walking trail the ‘Pleasure Grounds’ to fully appreciate the artistry of this wonderful landscape.
Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk and www.english-heritage.org.uk for more information.