'Capability' Brown at Wimpole

‘Capability’ Brown’s North Park is one of the most beautiful elements of the landscape at Wimpole, at its heart is an extraordinary folly in the form of a sham ruined castle.

The 2nd Earl of Hardwicke and Jemima

The landscape in the North park you see today was created from 1767 for Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl of Hardwicke and his wife Jemima, Marchioness Grey, whose shared interest included landscape gardening.  Their tours of other estates early on in their marriage included Stowe, where Brown had begun to make his mark in the naturalistic style he was to become celebrated for.

His 'Magic wand'

When Brown surveyed Wimpole in 1769 Jemima accompanied him, returning to the house two hours later exhausted but inspired by the capabilities for improvement he had conjured. 

Brown’s ‘Magic wand’ transfigured a vast area of farm-land criss-crossed by hedges and roads north of the house.  This was laid to turf, the old formal avenues thinned or felled, and trees planted singly and in clumps to create open parkland.  In the middle distance two angular 17th-century fishponds were made into serpentine lakes, and a third new lake was dug to the east. From higher ground these appear to flow through the park, like a sinuous river. 

The Gothic Folly

The sham ruined castle, designed for the Earl’s father by Sanderson Miller twenty years earlier but never built, was realised.  Brown oversaw construction of this picturesque eye-catcher, which from its Prospect Room gave panoramic views of the parkland and country beyond.

The Woodland Belts

The idyllic new landscape was enclosed within three miles of perimeter woodland belt. Through this snaked a ride, with strategic openings to park prospects. Whilst no longer experienced in a carriage or on horseback, it is a feature walkers and runners particularly enjoy today.

Capability Brown Festival in 2016

2016 marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, a designer who changed the national landscape and created a style which has shaped people’s picture of the quintessential English countryside. 
As the first ever celebration of Brown’s extensive works, the Capability Brown Festival 2016 brought together a huge range of events, openings and exhibitions some of which are took place at Wimpole.
" Mr Brown has been leading me such a Fairy Circle & his Magic Wand has raised such landscapes to the Eye – not visionary for they were all there but his Touch has brought them out with the same Effect as a Painter’s Pencil upon Canvass…’"
- Jemima, Marchioness Grey, 1769