Capability Brown at Sheffield Park

Sketch of Sheffield Park, East Sussex in late 1700s

The garden at Sheffield Park has been influenced by all of its owners over the last 300 years, but if you peel back the layers you can still find glimpses of the original vision of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and the First Earl of Sheffield as they strived to create their great landscape.

Who was he?

The son of a Northumberland farmer, Brown’s first major gardening role was at Stowe in 1741.  Famous for his grand designs, he used belts of trees, grazing animals and large lakes to create the illusion of a river winding through a natural landscape.  He worked on over 250 sites throughout the country, influencing landscapes with his naturalistic style that has come to be synonymous with a typical English countryside scene.  

Brown at Sheffield Park

On purchasing Sheffield Park in 1769, John Baker Holroyd (later the First Earl of Sheffield) set about remodelling the house and garden in the latest fashionable style.  He brought in architect James Wyatt to design the house, and Capability Brown to work on the garden. 

Brown created walks through the woodlands, with clearings to give views down to the lakes and nearby Fletching village.  Dotted around the garden and parkland you can still see oaks in groups of threes and fives, breaking up the landscape, but cleared around the base so as not to obscure views.  Of our five lakes, it’s Upper and Lower Woman’s Way Pond that were the ones originally created by Brown, a feat of 18th century engineering in itself.

In the garden and parkland

During the 2016 tercentenary, our garden team began work to restore the Capability Brown landscape around Lower Woman's Way Pond by clearing views through the trees to re-connect the garden and parkland.  

Roses and birch taken from an 18th century list of plants that would have been available to Brown at the time were planted outside reception and in selected beds around the garden.  Over the years, these highly scented and colourful roses will create a sensory experience for our summer visitors.