Explore 'Capability' Brown's landscape gardens

2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of the UK’s most celebrated landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. A revered designer, entrepreneur and salesman, his nickname came from his fondness for describing country estates as having great ‘capabilities’ for improvement.

Many of Brown’s designs can still be seen at our places. Here's our selection of some of his most important works.

Geese on water with the Palladian Bridge in the background at Stowe

Stowe, Buckinghamshire 

Brown’s time at Stowe was influential for him both professionally and personally. He began his career here in 1741 and it served as the proving ground for his future: Stowe's ‘Grecian Valley’ is classic example of the naturalistic style which made him famous. Brown was married in St Mary’s Church, and lived with his wife and four children in one of the Boycott Pavilions.

Aeriel view of Petworth

Petworth, West Sussex 

When Charles Wyndham inherited the Petworth estate in 1750, he found himself the owner of gardens that were widely criticised by his contemporaries. He commissioned Brown to wipe away the now-unfashionable formal landscape, and replace it with the serpentine ponds and rolling pastures that were the hallmarks of Brown’s growing success.

The church of St Mary Magdalene at Croome Park

Croome, Worcestershire 

Croome was Brown’s first large-scale project, commissioned by the 6th Earl of Coventry in 1751. Up to this point the fashion had been for formal gardens, but over time Brown's more naturalistic style changed the face of 18th century garden design. Following the landscape designer's death in 1783, the Earl erected a memorial by the lake at Croome to commemorate his work and 'inimitable genius'.

Golden Valley at Ashridge Estate Hertfordshire

Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire 

Brown visited Ashridge in 1759 on the invitation of the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, although little is known about the work he carried out. Even so, this ‘Golden Valley’ bears all the hallmarks of classic ‘Capability’ Brown, with sweeping vistas and rolling pastures fringed by woodland.

The Gothic Folly at Wimpole

Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire 

Wimpole’s magnificent parkland is the work of many of the greatest names in landscape gardening, including Charles Bridgeman and Humphrey Repton. However the most important element is surely ‘Capability’ Brown’s North Park. Created in the 1760s–70s, it provides an idyllic setting for the Hall and features an extraordinary focus in the form of a picturesque Gothic folly.

Trees on a lake edge reflected in the water

Wallington, Northumberland 

Born just 2 miles away, Brown’s daily walk to school in Cambo village took him through the Wallington estate. Although he left Northumberland in 1739, he returned in the 1760s to advise Wallington’s owner Sir Walter. The extent of his work is unclear, although we know he laid out the designs for the ‘Low Lake’, and may also have been involved in the creation of the ‘High Lake’.

Fallow deer graze in the deer park as the sun shines through the overlooking trees

Dinefwr, Carmarthenshire 

In 1775 Brown was invited to Newton House, nestled within the park and grounds of Dinefwr Castle, to advise on the landscape. His suggestions included the planting of trees and the relocation of the farm and kitchen garden. It is believed that he also designed one of the walking trails around Dinefwr Park, which makes the most of the natural vistas that frame the house.

A view of the Capability Brown landscape

Berrington Hall, Herefordshire 

The Berrington estate was purchased in 1775 by Thomas Harley, a banker from London. To display his wealth Harley commissioned Brown to create what would turn out to be his final landscape. Berrington is a beautiful example of Brown’s foresight, as it is only now the Oak and Beech trees have matured that the park truly looks as he intended - 200 years after he envisioned it.

Boys with their dad sitting on a tree stump next to the lake

Hatfield Forest, Essex 

Most of Hatfield looks like a typical medieval hunting forest, but in the centre you can find a landscaped lake, non-native trees, and the beautiful ‘Shell House’ picnic shelter. It was long believed that ‘Capability’ Brown had been involved in the works, but this was only recently confirmed by researchers who found a 1757 plan for the area by Brown, and a receipt for £50 paid for his work.