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Lancelot 'Capability' Brown at Croome

View over the parkland towards the house at Croome, Worcestershire, with the sun setting in the sky.
Sunset at Croome | © National Trust Images / John Hubble

In 1751, George William Coventry, the 6th Earl of Coventry, inherited the Croome estate and commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, to redesign the house and its parkland. Croome was ‘Capability’ Brown’s first large-scale commission and is often described as his 'first and favourite child'.  Discover the work that Brown completed which created the Croome that you can see today.

Who was Lancelot 'Capability' Brown?

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (so named for finding the 'capabilities' in his clients’ estates) was the most famous landscape designer and architect of the 18th century. He redesigned hundreds of parks and gardens throughout Britain and developed the natural looking English landscape style, renowned throughout the world. 

What work did ‘Capability’ Brown complete at Croome?

In 1751, Brown was asked by the 6th Earl to redesign the house and parkland at Croome, which was an unproductive marshland with formal gardens outside the house. 

He swept away the local village, which was in view of the house, and rebuilt it further away shrouded by tree planting. He removed Croome’s Medieval church and created a new Gothic church overlooking the park. 

Oil painting on canvas, Lancelot (`Capability?) Brown (1715?1783, after Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland RA (London 1735 ? Winchester 1811), circa 1775. A head-and-shoulders portrait of a man, tuirned to the left, gazing at the spectator, wearing a blue jacket and white cravat, grey powdered wig.
Lancelot`Capability' Brown by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland | © National Trust

Remodelling the house 

Brown remodelled Croome Court into the fashionable Palladian style. He directed the creation of many of the mansion's interiors, plasterwork and decorative schemes, bringing the natural world inside by using flower and fruit motifs. 

By 1759 the outer fabric and most of the late Rococo style parts of the interior (Saloon, Drawing Room, Dining Room and Entrance Hall) were finished and Brown moved on to concentrate on the landscape park, perhaps because in 1760 Robert Adam, full of 'modern' Classical ideas, had now come on the scene.    

Gone with the gardens 

The formal gardens were dug up and, in their place, Brown created natural looking parkland as far as the eye could see, complete with flowering shrubberies to walk through, temples and follies to add interest, carriage drives to ride on, and a hand-dug 1¾ mile long serpentine river topped with a lake. 

Brown expertly drained the land by installing a system of culverts across the estate - brick built drains under the ground which fed into the new lake and river.    

The estate developed and rivalled Kew Gardens for its variety of plants, many of which were cultivated in a beautiful flower garden and walled kitchen garden before being planted around the grounds. The walled garden was a model of self-sufficiency, feeding the family and their household.   

Clever illusions

Brown created elaborate illusions in his new landscape – the river was designed to appear as if it drifted off into the distance around a corner, but in fact abruptly came to an end behind some cleverly planted trees and shrubs. 

An ongoing friendship

30 years after he started, Brown was still visiting Croome and had become ‘sincere friends’ with the Earl. In February 1783, however, he died whilst returning home from dining with the Earl at his London home.    

Their friendship and shared ideals were immortalised in a monument to Brown erected by the 6th Earl at Croome’s lakeside and is still seen today: 

'To the Memory of Lancelot Brown 

Who by the powers of his inimitable and creative genius formed this garden scene out of a morass.'

A family with a pushchair walk in the grounds at Croome, Worcestershire. In the background Croome court can be seen.

Discover more at Croome

Find out when Croome is open, how to get here, things to see and do and more.

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