His first project
Croome was ‘Capability’ Brown’s first large scale commission and is often described as his 'first and most favourite child'.
His work marked a key development in the English Landscape style and was copied hundreds of times at other country estates across Britain and Europe.
Brown was hired in 1751 by the 6th Earl of Coventry who had inherited Croome at 28 and wanted the estate and house to be at the cutting edge of taste and design.
Out with the old
The wider parkland at Croome was an unproductive marshland when Brown arrived, with formal gardens outside the house.
He swept away the local village, which was in view of the house, and rebuilt it further away shrouded by tree planting. He removed Croome’s Medieval church and created a new Gothic church overlooking the park.
Gone with the gardens
The formal gardens were dug up and in their place Brown created natural looking parkland as far as the eye could see, complete with flowering shrubberies to walk through, temples and follies to add interest, carriage drives to ride on and a hand-dug 1¾ mile long serpentine river topped with a lake.
Brown expertly drained the land by installing a system of culverts across the estate - brick built drains under the ground which fed into the new lake and river.
Brown created elaborate illusions in his new landscape – the river was designed to appear as if it drifted off into the distance around a corner, but in fact abruptly came to an end behind some cleverly planted trees and shrubs.
A botanical best
The planting carried out at Croome was extensive and many of the trees planted by Brown still survive in the park today including Planes, Cedars and Oaks. By the early 19th century Croome’s reputation for its plant and tree collections was formidable.
In 1801 the Annals of Agriculture described Croome as “second only to Kew” for its botanical diversity.
Man of many talents
At Croome Brown created an original masterpiece of landscape design. Remarkably, this was only part of Brown’s exceptional work at Croome. He not only designed the park, but was the architect chosen to remodel Croome Court into the fashionable Palladian style.
Brown directed the creation of many of the mansion’s interiors, plasterwork and decorative schemes bringing the natural world inside by using flower and fruit motifs.
30 years after he started, Brown was still visiting Croome and had become ‘sincere friends’ with the Earl. In February 1783, however, he died whilst returning home from dining with the Earl at his London home.
Their friendship and shared ideals were immortalised in a monument to Brown erected by the 6th Earl at Croome’s lakeside and still seen today:
To the Memory of Lancelot Brown
Who by the powers of his inimitable and creative genius formed this garden scene out of a morass.