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Biography of Lancelot Brown

Portrait of Lancelot "Capability" Brown

Lancelot Brown was one of the major figures of the Landscape Movement in eighteenth century garden design.

When and Where was he Born?

1715, Kirkharle, Northumberland, England. Christened Lancelot. The nickname “Capability” comes from his habit of telling all his clients that “This place has a lot of capabilities”.

Family Background:

Brown was the son of William Browne from Yeoman stock.

Education:

No formal education.

Timeline of “Capability” Brown:

Brown began work as a gardener’s boy in Northumberland.

1720: Death of his father.

1732: He is apprenticed to Sir William Lorraine at Kirkharle Hall in Northumberland.

Kirkharle Gardens
The Gardens at Kirkharle Hall are now being restored to Brown’s plan including the lake. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1739: He leaves the Family home.

1740: Lancelot Brown begins working for Lord Cobham at Stowe.

1742: He obtains a post at Stowe, one of the most influential gardens of the day. He is responsible for showing wealthy visitors around the garden and gats to know many of the nobility. He works under William Kent and then sets up his own business after Kent’s death.

1744: He marries Bridget Wayet on 22nd November, at St. Mary’s Church, Hove, Sussex.

1749: Death of Lord Cobham.

1751: Brown sets up his first private gardening business. He begins work at Croome Park in Worcestershire.

By 1753: Brown is known as the leading improver of grounds in England. He receives his nickname due to his often-used phrase when looking at a garden. “This place has a lot of capabilities”.

1755: He works at Burghley Park.

1751- 57: He works on designs for Petworth House, West Sussex. Brown buys the Lordship of the Manor of Fenstanton and Hilton in Cambridgeshire.

1760: Brown creates a lake at Wakefield Lodge for the Duke of Grafton snd then begins work at Blenheim Palace the home of the Duke of Marlborough.

1764: He becomes Surveyor to His Majesty’s Gardens and Waters at Hampton Court.

1770: He is appointed as the High Sherrif of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.

Kirharle Plan of Gardens
Brown’s Plan of Kirkhale Gardens was found in a desk in the Hall 
in 1830 by Major Thomas Anderson who bought the house from the Lorraine family. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1773: He begins works at Kew Gardens.

1777: Brown works at Cardiff Castle.

When and Where did he Die?

6th February 1783, London, England after hitting his head the day before during a fall.

Age at Death:

68.

Marriage:

To Bridget Wayet on 22nd November 1744, at St. Mary’s Church, Hove, Sussex.

Site of Grave:

Buried next to his wife in the parish churchyard at Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire. There is also a memorial to him on the wall of the chancel inside the church.

Places of Interest:

AVON:

Prior Park, Bath.

HEREFORDSHIRE:

Berrington Hall.

OXFORDSHIRE:

Blenheim Palace.

NORTHUMBERLAND:

Kirkharle Hall Gardens and Craft Centre, Kirkharle Hall.

Plaque marking Capability Brown's birth
Plaque marking Capability Brown’s birth (copyright Anthony Blagg)

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE:

Clumber Park.

SUSSEX:

Petworth House.
Sheffield Park.

WARWICKSHIRE:

Charlecote Park.

WORCESTERSHIRE:

Croome Park. (Was his first commission).

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