Peak District National Park
The landscape gardener of the 18th century who designed the gardens of some of our greatest stately homes.
Gardens to visit: Capability Brown
The gardens at Chatsworth House were landscaped by Capability Brown. His plans included widening the River Derwent and revamping the formal gardens in a more 'naturalistic' style
Gardener's boy to landscape apprentice
Lancelot Brown was born in a small village of Kirkharle near Morpeth, Northumberland, where he worked as a gardener’s boy at the landowning Loraine family’s estate.
After serving his apprenticeship there, he moved to Buckinghamshire and by 1741 he had been employed by Lord Cobham at Stowe where he worked with William Kent (one of the founders of the new English informal style of gardening).
Brown married Kent’s daughter and went on to found his own landscape gardening practice. He became extremely popular with the English aristocracy who employed him to revamp the gardens at their great estates. At one stage, in the 1760s, he was earning £15,000 a year - and he was the landscape gardener of the era. Diarmuid Gavin eat your heart out!
Brown was famous for the speed at which he worked – it was once said that after half a day on horseback he’d conceived the design for an entire estate, and after another half a day he’d marked out the ground.
In 1759 Brown was employed by the Duke of Devonshire to transform the gardens at his Chatsworth estate at Bakewell – now in the heart of the Peak District National Park.
The gardens were designed out of what was then working farmland – a challenge for the great designer who often talked of a garden’s ‘capabilities’ which earned him his well-known nickname.
Brown set about removing hedges, planting new trees and widening the River Derwent to revamp the old formal gardens in the new more naturalistic style.
Other great gardens
Out of the 170 he worked on, some of the most well-known gardens created by Capability include:
- Alnwick Castle
- Blenheim Palace – said to be his masterpiece
- Burghley House
- Bowood House
- Harewood House
- Holkham Hall
Did you know?
Capability Brown was fond of using the ‘ha-ha’ in his designs – a hidden wall used to divide farmland from landscaped lawns without the view being disrupted by a fence.