'Capability' found at Stowe
Head Gardener 1741-51, Stowe
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.
Where it all began… Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 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.
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.
More on the estate
Visit Stowe House, find out more about Brown's influence in the discovery centre and 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.