New recognition for Capability Brown
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 (www.capabilitybrown.org). on Friday (september 9), the University of cambridge has an open discussion event at Madingley Hall, where Brown worked in the 1750s (www.opencambridge.cam.ac.uk; 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. org.uk), which is linked to the list, enabling the tracing of listed areas and buildings. Jack Watkins