Clandon Park and the great garden designers

A bird's eye view of Clandon by Leendert Knyff, 1708

The gardens at Clandon have been a canvas for two of the greatest, most influential garden designers in English history.

London and Wise

George London and Henry Wise were the preeminent English garden designers of the 17th century. They developed an English style influenced by French and Dutch gardens, their work at Clandon could be seen in Knyff’s painting of 1708.
Lime Walk at Clandon Park
Lime Tree Walk at Clandon Park, Surrey
Lime Walk at Clandon Park
Wise was apprenticed to George London, together the two produced formal gardens at Hampton Court, Chelsea Hospital, Longleat, Chatsworth, Wimpole Hall and Castle Howard. None of their complete designs remain intact, but you can see their work in historic paintings and plans.
At Clandon, the lime walk remains an original feature of the London and Wise gardens. Twenty six lime trees form a walkway stretching up to the church. The limes are not the original trees but they can be seen on many historic records. London and Wise also created the man-made slope to the south of the house. Three hundred years ago this south terrace gave views down onto the bowling lawn, now the parterre, and out over a formal garden.
The rest of the remaining London and Wise landscape is beyond our ownership. To the south, towards the Epsom Road, is a double avenue of limes and a small man-made hill designed to allow views of the gardens. South west of the house was a wilderness, a term used for an area of garden used to walk and find privacy. North of the house was another processional route, an enclosed deer park and a key shaped canal.

Lancelot Capability Brown

Born in 1715, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was the leading figure of the English landscape movement, his designs dominated the style. Brown’s talent for landscapes was drawn from his work as a kitchen gardener, his travels through Europe and his work for designer William Kent. In 1751 he set up his own business and in the next three decades Brown was responsible for 110 landscapes including Stowe, Cliveden and Claremont. He became known as ‘Capability’ Brown for his ability to see potential in landscapes that would take decades to mature.
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, Oil painting on canvas after Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland
Capability Brown portrait
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, Oil painting on canvas after Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland
Whilst Clandon was Brown’s penultimate design, the scale of the work meant that the majority was not completed until 1814. Brown’s original plans for Clandon have not been seen since 1927 but there are documented accounts describing his ideas. The majority of his work at Clandon is beyond our borders, however his iconic views can still be seen from the garden.
The key-shaped canal was to be reshaped into a lake dammed at both ends, only the dams were completed. The millpond was enlarged to form a second lake but plans to demolish Temple Court were ignored. Brown planned to knock down the old stables to allow views to the north but they survived until the 20th century. A new approach passing Temple Court was built and the parkland extended to the north and west. Two lodges were built to the south west with a wrought iron gate between them.
Today the parkland still reflects the design principles of a typical ‘Capability’ Brown landscape:
  • Unity. The axis of Brown’s landscape at Clandon extends from the mansion all the way to Merrow
  • Removal of geometric features. The London and Wise formality was almost completely removed
  • Limited use of architecture for focal points. No architectural features remained in the park, the main entrance and Temple Court were screened to allow for a natural setting
  • Belts of trees were used to frame views, create vistas and display changing seasons. Planting included beech, oak, Scots pine and sweet chestnut