The 'Capability' Brown connection

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was a local boy who made good – born in 1716 at Kirkharle, just two miles away from Wallington, Brown went to school in the estate village of Cambo and his daily walk to school took him through the rolling farmland of the Wallington estate.

Despite his relatively humble beginnings, Brown left Northumberland in 1739 and went on to become England’s most sought-after landscape gardener, designing gardens for the wealthiest and most influential patrons in the country, including the King and six Prime Ministers.
 
However, the landscape around Wallington, Brown’s home for over twenty years and one he would have been intimately familiar with, would surely have influenced him – perhaps the naturalistic designs he became so famous for were inspired by the natural beauty of his home county?
 

Northumbrian roots

Brown maintained a close connection with Northumberland throughout his life and is thought to have regularly visited his family, who remained in this area.
 
His association with the Wallington estate seems to have continued too as his older brother George Brown worked as a stone mason for Wallington’s then owner, Sir Walter Calverley Blackett, all his life. 
 
Brown also worked in the county, producing designs for the 1st Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle in the late 1760s.  
 

Brown at Wallington

In spite of Brown’s links to the estate, the extent of his involvement with developments at Wallington is unclear.
 
Historians over the years have suggested that he gave advice to Sir Walter about relocating the walled garden from the East Wood to its present location while he was in Northumberland in the 1760s and may also have had a hand in designing the beautiful Owl House that now looks over it. 
 

The Owl House mystery

Unfortunately, there is no documentary evidence to support this suggestion and it remains both an area of debate and one for further research.
 
The current focus of this research is the Owl House, as there are designs of two other very similar looking buildings in existence and the one at Talacre Garden in Wales is attributed to Brown.
 
The similarity is tantalising because if Brown can be linked to the design of the Owl House, it strengthens his connection with Wallington and perhaps suggests he had a greater influence on the development of the estate than previously assumed. 
 

Rothley Lake - Brown's Grand Design?

What we do know for certain is that Brown advised Sir Walter on the design of his new pleasure grounds at Rothley in the late 1760s.  Whether Brown had any involvement in the ‘High Lake’ is hard to pin down but five original drawings, dated 1769 and confirmed to be by Brown, lay out his designs for the ‘Low Lake’, a causeway and an associated house. 
 
Since Brown’s time, Rothley Lake has become a highly significant habitat for wildlife and so is not generally open to the public at present but our ranger team offer a number of special guided trips to Rothley Lake throughout the year to share this beautiful site and reveal the research being carried out into its hidden past.