If you are considering English landscaped gardens in the 18th Century, there is one name that changed the face of the nation’s mansions and estates and that was Lancelot Capability Brown. Brown took the idea of landscaping a garden to a completely different level to what it had been prior to his arrival. Brown’s development was on a grand scale with flowing lakes, rolling hills and ornamental follies. Lancelot Brown was born in the north of England in 1716, he began his gardening career in 1739 when he was twenty-three years old.
The Style of Capability Brown
Brown’s designs took on two principal elements which were elegance and of course comfort. He was a great believer that things should not be purely aesthetic and pleasing to the eye, he was keen that everything should work and the landscaped garden should work for the house and the estate. But overall the outside space should be elegant and there had to be cohesion to everything. Capability Brown had a signature to his designs, they had common themes and one was the way he integrated sunken fences to give the optical illusion that individual pieces of parkland were actually one big piece of rolling landscaped garden. He could take separate areas like lakes and cleverly construct them so that they looked like one huge mass of water. And he could form an impression that the parkland was never ending and went on forever far off in the distance. In all his work left a total coherence to the landscape and the name Capability, came about as Brown often cited a landscape of having great capabilities.
Lancelot Brown did not just design landscapes, he offered many services to his clients including surveys, plans for the buildings, an overseer service for the actual work. During his heyday, Brown was working with twenty foremen in his employ, and only visited sites a couple of times himself. Not only did Lancelot Brown design landscapes, he was a keen architect and during the mid-seventeenth century he worked on great country houses including the stunning Burghley House. A big moment in his career was in 1764 when he was put in charge of the gardens of Hampton Court and he took the opportunity to move to Wilderness House in Hampton Court.
His best remembered works are on a grand scale, where he was involved not just in gardens but building farms, woodlands, sweeping drives to connect the different sectors of the landscape. There have been many landscapes that were designed by Lancelot Brown and they have been assessed and re-assessed many times over the two hundred years since his passing. But nearly every landscape gardener in the world has been influenced by Lancelot Capability Brown, and his legacy has left many fantastic landscapes dotted all over the planet.
It is estimated that over two hundred and fifty landscapes still exist today that were designed and constructed by Lancelot Brown, and many are captured in landscape paintings and poetry by legendary artists such as Turner and poets such as Wordsworth.