On the 30th August, 1716, a boy from Kirkharle, a rural village in the north east of England was baptised in the name of Lancelot Brown. Little did his family know at the time that their fair haired bairn would grow to become one of the most respected landscape gardeners in English history – Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
Details of Brown’s achievements can be found elsewhere, and in this short post I make no apology in attempting simply to highlight an important date in the Brownian calendar, along with a place that would have been significant to the Lancelot we try to understand.
Kirkharle Courtyard these days is home to a number of rural artisan type shops, and a cafe/restaurant of course, but its farm style buildings stem from an earlier country manor house. Although the mansion has long since disappeared, the remaining estate buildings continue in their adapted form and offer a warm welcome to all who make the time to drop by.
Lancelot would have known Kirkharle intimately, especially as he worked there as an apprentice gardener for Sir William Loraine. Just a little way up the track, the village church, St. Wilfreds remains much as it would have when Lancelot was baptised there, apart from the additional improvements even he recommended later in life. A simple but effective plaque stays in remembrance.
Back down at the courtyard, and in memory of their famous son, information boards are available at various points which provide a detailed introduction to Brown’s work, his connections with Kirkharle and achievements. Beyond the courtyard however, an altogether different memorial exists in the form of a newly established Brownian landscape no less.
Constructed following the discovery recently of a Brown plan; the new lake, planting and information boards breathe new life into the Brown story. The garden I think does justice to Brown, and even after a short period of establishment shows much promise. I look forward to seeing this garden develop, and to walking its paths in different seasons, and I only wish that Brown himself could see the results, and maybe offer some well chosen words of advice – but knowing Brown, his words would probably accompany an invoice or two!
I don’t wish to label the location unnecessarily bleak, as it remains a hive of rural activity, but it is one within the unforgiving Northumbrian hills which hold a rugged beauty all of their own. For me the place holds a special atmosphere, much as his landscapes; an atmosphere I try to understand when I work at figuring out Lancelot’s inspiration.
I shall finish for now by saying that for those wanting to understand a lot more about Brown, then Kirkharle as Brown’s launch pad is ‘the’ place to start. I look forward to hearing from other disciples who make, or have made the visit. Please do send or tweet a photo to @Brown2016 – share the love!