Lancelot “Capability” Brown

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Lancelot Brown (1716 – 6 February 1783), more commonly known as Capability Brown, was an English landscape architect. He is remembered as "the last of the great English eighteenth-century artists to be accorded his due", and "England's greatest gardener". He designed over 170 parks, many of which still endure. His influence was so great that the contributions to the English garden made by Charles Bridgeman and William Kent are often overlooked; even Kent's apologist Horace Walpole allowed that Kent had been followed by "a very able master".[1]

Contents

Biography

Lancelot Brown was born in Kirkharle, Northumberland, and educated at Cambo School. He began work by serving as a gardener's boy at Sir William Loraine's seat at Kirkharle Hall. From there, he moved to Wotton Underwood in Buckinghamshire, a minor seat of Lord Cobham. In 1742,[2] he joined Lord Cobham's gardening staff at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. There, he served under William Kent, one of the founders of the new English style of landscape garden. While at Stowe, Brown married a local girl named Bridget Wayet and had the first four of his children.

As a proponent of the new English style, Brown became immensely sought after by the landed families. By 1751, Walpole wrote of Brown's work at Warwick Castle:

It is estimated that Brown was responsible for over 170 gardens surrounding the finest country houses and estates in Britain. His work still endures at Croome Court (where he also designed the house), Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Harewood House, Bowood House, Milton Abbey (and nearby Milton Abbas village), in traces at Kew Gardens and many other locations. This man who refused work in Ireland because he had not finished England was called "Capability" Brown, because he would characteristically tell his landed clients that their estates had great "capability" for landscape improvement.

His style of smooth undulating grass, which would run straight to the house, clumps, belts and scattering of trees and his serpentine lakes formed by invisibly damming small rivers, were a new style within the English landscape, a "gardenless" form of landscape gardening, which swept away almost all the remnants of previous formally patterned styles.

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