New recog­ni­tion for Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

His­toric Eng­land has marked the 300th an­niver­sary of the birth of ca­pa­bil­ity Brown by adding two of his land­scapes—stoke Place, Buck­ing­hamshire, and Peper Harow Park, sur­rey—to the na­tional Her­itage list (the list) for Eng­land. seven other sites as­so­ci­ated with the cel­e­brated de­signer, in­clud­ing Wilder­ness House at Hamp­ton court Palace, Brown’s home when he was chief gar­dener to ge­orge iii, are be­ing relisted.

‘Brown was one of the great cre­ative forces of ge­or­gian Eng­land. He brought a lyri­cal eye to the land­scape and en­vi­sioned how na­ture could be im­proved upon,’ com­ments dr roger Bowdler, direc­tor of list­ing for His­toric Eng­land.

there are more than 250 at­trib­uted or def­i­nite sites with a ca­pa­bil­ity Brown con­nec­tion across the coun­try, but the list­ing of stoke Place seems es­pe­cially fit­ting as it was in Buck­ing­hamshire that Brown se­cured some of his most sig­nif­i­cant com­mis­sions, in­clud­ing at Wot­ton House and at stowe. stoke Place came later, with the large lake and plea­sure grounds cre­ated be­tween 1765 and 1767.

in the same decade, Brown worked at Peper Harow, near go­dalm­ing, sur­rey, where his de­signs em­pha­sise the grandeur of the near-con­tem­po­rary house by sir Wil­liam cham­bers. Brown’s gar­den lay­out sur­vives largely in­tact, as do sev­eral trees.

the Wot­ton Un­der­wood land­scape is among the relist­ings. His­toric Eng­land de­scribes it as ‘an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of an 18th-cen­tury coun­try­house land­scape’, which has sur­vived largely undis­turbed since the mid 18th cen­tury.

oth­ers who helped shape Wot­ton in­cluded ge­orge london, Henry Wise and san­der­son Miller and Wil­liam Pitt the El­der is known to have had a hand in cre­at­ing the wa­ter scenery.

Brown’s last rest­ing place, in the church­yard of st Peter and st Paul, Fen­stan­ton, cam­bridgeshire, has also been relisted in recog­ni­tion of his achieve­ments. By the time he died in Fe­bru­ary 1783, his name had en­tered the cul­tural land­scape and his wealth en­abled him to ac­quire the manor house at Fen­stan­ton, thus be­com­ing lord of the manor. a memo­rial in the church com­mands all to ‘know that more than ge­nius slum­bers here’.

cel­e­bra­tions in Brown’s hon­our are on­go­ing, with many sites of­fer­ing au­tum­nal walks, ex­hi­bi­tions or talks (­pa­bil­i­ty­ on Fri­day (septem­ber 9), the Univer­sity of cam­bridge has an open dis­cus­sion event at Mad­in­g­ley Hall, where Brown worked in the 1750s (­cam­; 01223 766766).

Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant of a slew of new books on Brown is due in novem­ber. Place-mak­ing: The art of Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown, writ­ten by John Phibbs via crowd­fund­ing pub­lisher Un­bound and His­toric Eng­land, ar­gues that Brown’s in­flu­ence on the cul­ture of this coun­try has been as great as that of turner, telford and Wordsworth.

Ho­race Walpole wrote that it would be a mark of Brown’s suc­cess that he would be for­got­ten, ‘so closely did he copy na­ture that his works will be mis­taken’. although many of his land­scapes are of­ten taken for coun­try­side un­touched by the hand of man, there’s no chance of his name fad­ing from the na­tional con­scious­ness (In The Gar­den, page 102).

His­toric Eng­land has cre­ated an on­line map of his most im­por­tant land­scapes (https://his­tori­ceng­land., which is linked to the list, en­abling the trac­ing of listed ar­eas and build­ings. Jack Watkins

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