Capability Brown   1715 -  1783
Back to 1783

IckworthBorn in Northumberland, Lancelot Brown began his gardening life as a very junior worker in the grounds of Sir William Loraine at Kirkharle Hall before moving on to Sir Richard Grenville’s estate at Wotton. He also worked at Lord Cobham’s Stowe estate in Buckinghamshire where he served under pioneering garden designer William Kent, one of the founders of English Landscape Gardening.

At Stowe Lancelot had hands-on experience making Kent’s ideas into reality and became so experienced that Lord Cobham allowed him to work for some of his friends while still employed there.

After Lord Cobham died in 1749 Brown moved to London to set up his own business, where he was an enormous success.  It was here that he gained his nickname “Capability” because of his habit of telling clients that their gardens had “great capabilities”.  A measure of his popularity can be gained from the list of great houses that are surrounded by his gardens. More than 170 of the great gardens of England were his designs and many hundreds more were influenced by his style. Even royalty were impressed and he was appointed head gardener at Hampton Court Palace in the early 1760s while still being allowed to carry on his own business.

He was no respecter of other people’s works and many early formal gardens were swept away to make room for his wide vistas and classical views, incorporating monuments, temples and follies. All was designed to look as if Nature created it herself but Brown would happily destroy hills and redirect rivers to create his “natural” look.

Among the gardens and parks designed by Brown were: Alnwick Castle, Audley End,  Blenheim Palace, Broadlands, Burghley House, Burton Constable Hall, Castle Ashby, Charlecote, Chatsworth, Clandon Park, Clumber Park, Harewood House, Holkham Hall, Ickworth, Longleat, Petworth House, Sledmere, Stowe Landscape Garden, Temple Newsam, Trentham Gardens, Warwick Castle and Wimpole Hall.