'Capability' Brown



2016 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783), foremost contributor to the English landscape style.

Born in Kirkharle, Northumberland, Brown was both a visionary and a ruthlessly ambitious businessman, who rose from apprentice under-gardener at a modest Northumbrian estate to the lofty position of Master Gardener to George III. The scale of his work is extraordinary and in the West Midlands, Brown has been linked with over thirty sites.

Brown’s formula, exemplified at Berrington Hall in Herefordshire, held the commercial monopoly on landscape design well into the nineteenth century. It included open expanses of turf, scattered with individual trees and tree clumps, surrounded by a perimeter belt, and ornamented with water and perhaps a few garden buildings.

Dark evergreens were used as a backdrop, alternating with deciduous planting to create changes in mood as a visitor meandered along woodland paths. Another essential feature in an age of fast carriages was the circuit drive, which weaved in and out of the perimeter belt like the one at Croome Court in Worcestershire, and a serpentine lake, used to enliven the middle distance.

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