'Capability' found at Stowe

Head Gardener 1741-51, Stowe

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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

 

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

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.

Video

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.

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

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.