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