Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown
This year marks the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown's birth in Kirkharle, Northumberland. He was one of the foremost landscape architects of the 18th century and is closely associated with the English Landscape Movement. There are many events, open days, and exhibitions around the country co-ordinated by a national Capability Brown Festival. You can find out more about these celebrations on the festival website here.
We are holding a special event in Kent as part of the celebrations. This will be on Sunday 21st August at Chilham Castle, which Brown first visited in 1777. We have invited two Brown experts, Steffie Shields and Kate Felus, to give illustrated talks; and there will be a tour round the garden, an exhibition and refreshments during the day, including a two course lunch. See here for more details. Book online now!
Our annual Spring lecture on Saturday 21st May at Riverhill House, Sevenoaks also has a Brown theme this year. The author, lecturer and garden historian, Michael Symes, who is a specialist in 18th century garden history, will give what will be a fascinating illustrated talk on The English Landscape Garden: Brown and Alternative Contemporary Visions. More details for this can be found on our events page.
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Our main contribution to the Capability Brown festival is an exciting new book Capability Brown in Kent. It has been written by members of our research team and tells the story of Brown's commissions in Kent. We are delighted with it!
Capability Brown worked at Ingress, Leeds Abbey, Valence, Chilham Castle and North Cray Place. These sites are all relatively small-scale, and most have been much altered since Brown's involvement. Nevertheless, the authors demonstrate clearly how a detailed look at what he achieved here provides valuable insights into his remarkable output throughout the country.
All five estates reveal elements of ‘classical’ Brown work. At Leeds and Valence he created dams and lakes; he planted sinuous tree belts at North Cray Place and Ingress; he removed avenues of trees at Ingress and Valence, and at all the sites he placed specimen trees in key positions. Whilst Brown removed formal gardens at Leeds and Ingress he was generally sensitive to the views of his patrons and contemporaries. As an architect who favoured Gothic and Palladian forms, the book reveals examples of his work in both styles.
The book describes the social context of the time, and shows how Brown was adept at moving amongst the political, business and mercantile landowning classes. It also demonstrates, during a period of little more than 35 years, his genius as a landscape gardener and his business acumen in creating five harmonious landscapes in Kent and over 200 throughout England.
This book will interest garden historians, but also anyone with an interest in our landscape, its history, and the work of one of the greatest and most influential designers of landscape.
‘Let us applaud Kent Gardens Trust researchers who have pieced together remnant evidence to re-evaluate his major contribution to the liberating design story of the English landscape in Kent.’
‘The details that emerge about the five commissions that he undertook in the county present a thought-provoking microcosm of his enormous oeuvre and illustrate themes that resonate throughout his career.’
The book has 116 pages and is fully illustrated. It is available for £9.50 (£8.00 for members of Kent Gardens Trust).
Obtaining your copy:
© Portrait of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, c.1770-75, Cosway, Richard (1742-1821)/Private Collection/Bridgeman Images.
Photographs of North Cray courtesy: Lee Ricketts