Dinefwr’s designer links celebrated
A very special tree was planted at Dinefwr Park in Llandeilo on 18 March in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of famed landscape designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
National Trust’ Director General, Dame Helen Ghosh visited Dinefwr Park in Llandeilo to plant the tree to commemorate the tercentenary of Brown’s birth and his visit to Dinefwr in 1775.
The 800-acre parkland estate in Carmarthenshire is the only site in Wales to boast a designed landscape influenced by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown that allows public access.
Brown was the most famous landscape designer of the 18th century. And between 1751 and 1783 he designed 170 gardens and estates across Britain with his innovative approach being imitated at many more sites.
A year of celebrations
To launch a year of celebrations, the National Trust is planting hundreds of trees back in the designed landscapes in its care. Capability changed the look of gardens in the 18th century, designing country estates and mansions, moving hills and making flowing lakes and serpentine rivers to create new landscape settings. His work also involved digging up formal gardens, draining marshland to create new lakes and streams and even moving an entire village out of sight.
He visited Dinefwr in 1775. Obviously impressed, he wrote: 'I wish my journey may prove of use to the place. Nature has been truly bountiful and art has done no harm.'
National Trust Carmarthenshire general manager Jacqui Kedward said: 'What visitors to Dinefwr now see today is the vision of George and Cecil Rice with Brown’s influence.'
Three-hundred years on, Brown’s influence is ever-present and its splendour is something visitors still marvel at. Last year, we had record visitor numbers, many drawn mainly by the beauty of the landscape.' As the only publicly open area in Wales influenced by Brown, we’re sure that many more visitors will be drawn here this year in the 300th anniversary of his birth.'
The owners of the Dinefwr Estate at the time of Brown’s visit were George Rice and his wife Cecil, who was the only child of the fabulously wealthy William Talbot of Hensol in Glamorganshire. Splendidly well- to-do and well connected, they spent much of their time in London where they were influenced by new ideas of philosophy and culture, especially the view that nature could be art.
George Rice invited Brown to suggest improvements to the Dinefwr landscape. Brown duly obliged and recommended building and moving some walls, fences and paths, combining fields into large meadows, moving the kitchen garden to the Home Farm, creating a new plantation and moving the Llandeilo entrance.
Some of Brown’s proposals were carried out but others, such as creating a garden in the deer park, were not taken up by the family. One of Brown’s suggestions was the entrance to the park be moved from Llandeilo Bridge to a new entrance at the top of the hill in Park Sir David. This is where the entrance is now.
Two drawings signed by Brown show a proposed Gothick Lodge and entrance. The Gothick Lodge was not built. However, the curved entrance area which exists today where the drive leaves the Llandeilo road is exactly the same shape as shown in the plan from Brown.
Under Brown’s plans, formal features such as avenues of trees and straight-sided flower-beds on the estate were removed and replaced with rolling lawns, sinuous lakes and clumps of trees.
Carefully composed vistas were also created. Some directed the viewer to the wider landscape beyond the walls of the park, others focused on ornamental buildings. There was no division between the park and the house. Livestock was kept away from the windows by a ‘ha-ha’, an invisible ditch and wall.
Walk in his footsteps
Dame Helen Gosh is visiting all the 25 National Trust sites in the UK this year that have a link to Capability Brown. In many of them she will be planting a tree and other events are being organised at sites throughout the year.
Dinefwr is the only property in Wales she will visit as part of the celebrations. There is a Capability Brown walk at Dinefwr and other events are being planned at the site for later in the year.