'Capability' found at Stowe

Head Gardener 1741-51, Stowe

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown - Head Gardener 1741-51

Rising through the ranks, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown learnt his trade experimenting at Stowe, making his mark on the landscape before moving on to transform the English countryside and many aristocratic estates. Strong personal connections to his life and patronage by Lord Cobham cemented his place in Stowe's history.

The Temple of Concord and Victory stands tall. A huge golden Grecian style temple with large coloums, collonades and portico with craved murals and statues sit on the top.

Where it all began… Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown at Stowe

New for 2016

To celebrate the tercentenary of Brown’s birth there are a whole host of things to see and do at Stowe, from individual events to a long running exhibition. You can visit the festival hub to discover Brown’s life and work at Stowe, take tours of the garden or explore it at your own pace. 

Soaking up the atmosphere

Take a seat with one of the most iconic veiws across the Grecian Valley. Here you can enjoy time passing by and soaking up the enormity of Brown's vision. From loose leaf tea with a slice of Victoria sponge cake to Chiltern Brewey ale and toasted tea cakes, there's a moment waiting for you to take in the atmosphere.
What's more, if you love the traditional sets of tea pots and china cups, you can take them home. Ask our team on hand when you've finished, they'll wrap them up and your donation will go towards the restoration of the gardens at Stowe.

What did Brown do at Stowe?

Starting as under-gardener to William Kent, Brown rose through the ranks to head gardener. He sculpted the large Grecian Valley with views out to his parkland, with monumentally large temples sitting atop the high points whilst naturalising the shapes of the Octagon and Eleven Acre Lakes. Looking out to the parkland, Brown created a trick of the eye by using hidden and sunken Ha-ha walls to keep the livestock out of the main garden whilst creating views that appeared as one ongoing scene. 

The atmospheric Deer Park laid out by 'Capability' Brown, Stowe
National Trust Stowe, Buckinghamshire

Stowe was also home for 10 years and witnessed many life changing events; he married at Stowe Parish Church in the heart of the gardens and started a family here. Lord Cobham’s patronage allowed Brown to travel across the country to wealthy estates, advising landowners that their estates had ‘capabilities’ and suggesting changes. Following Cobham’s death, Brown struck out as a consultant, making Stowe his first and only ever place of employment.

A real gem for those on the trail of Brown’s gardens, Stowe is still defined by the style of the eighteenth century; having been protected from further fashion changes in the following decades and centuries, due to the decline, fall and bankruptcy of the Temple-Grenville family in the nineteenth century. Since acquiring the gardens in the late 1980s, the National Trust has been working to restore Stowe to its eighteenth-century gardening heyday.


Stowe, where it all began...

Everything you ever needed to know about the "greatest landscape gardener of all time" as seen by artist and animator Tim Britton. Find out more about Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and discover great places to see his landscapes.

Autumn walks

For those with a keen interest in history and art, join our experts on their specialist walks through the gardens this autumn.

Richard Wheeler, National Trust Gardens Expert and historian is a distinguished man, in his late middle years, dressed in a cream linen suit leans on the Palladian Bridge at Stowe looking over the Octagon Lake

Stepping into Brown's world

Thu 15 Sep 11am-1pm. Take a stroll through the gardens as National Trust expert Richard Wheeler leads you through Brown's footsteps finishing at Concord and Victory.

A wide picture of the Grecian Valley at Stowe. An atmospheric blue sky is dotted with clouds in the autumn. Trees surround the valley and at the head lies the large Grecian style Temple of Concord and Victory

Grecian Valley evening tour

Meet the gardeners managing Brown's landscape on en evening tour of the Grecian Valley. Raise a glass of prosecco to toast the man on arrival at Concord and Victory.

An illustration of The Cascade at Stowe. An archway is open with a body of water coming through from the Octagon Lake and falling down into the Eleven Acre Lake. The arch way and surrounding structure are created to look like a Greek ruin in golden stone

Sketching Brown's views

5 Oct 10am-12noon or 1-3pm. Capture the essence of the Capability Brown landscape at Stowe through drawing on this sketching tour taught by artist Sue Pownall.

Famous television personality Alan Titchmarsh leaning on a fench in the gardens at Stowe. Looking into the distance, there are two camera men with equipment and sound recorders with the backdrop of a grassy hill, lake and sheep

Watch 'Titchmarsh on Capability Brown'

In May 2015, TV personality and keen gardener Alan Titchmasrh undertook a tour around the country to look at significant 'Capability' Brown gardens. He filmed at Stowe to demonstrate how Brown started his professional career. You can watch his programme which includes great insights into his work at Stowe. This is the first episode of a three part series.

More on the estate

Throughout the year Stowe House will be celebrating Brown's influence through an exhibition showing the changes he implemented from historical drawings, whilst you can take tours of the state rooms which will also feature elements of Brown's history. Please find seperate prices for Stowe House on our homepage. 

At Stowe Church tucked away in the heart of the gardens, you can pop in anytime on your walk through the Elysian Fields and follow Brown's footsteps down the aisle to the alter where he got married. Four of children were also christened in the same church. Sit on the bench outdoors and enjoy the little mini-haven that is created amongst the vast landscape. On special days the marriage and christening register will be on display here to see as well as being hosted at Stowe House throughout the year.