Capability Brown Festival

It’s 2015, already, and we’re well on our way towards the tercentenary festival year for Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown of 2016. All the chatter about doing something to celebrate Brown’s 300th Birthday has grown, thankfully from a small group of industry professionals to a significant Funding bid, related activity, and a host of Brownian landscapes and people keen to be involved.

A thirst for knowledge is being triggered as we move closer to 2016, engaging people and creating new research opportunities. Who knows what information will surface as we move forward. Furthermore, new people will be drawn towards landscape who may previously not have. Filling real landscapes with real people for walking, rolling, rowing, artistic endeavours and a range of sporting activities will breath new life into these gardens.

So why the criticism? Why do some folk feel the need to sneer at the efforts people are making towards 2016? There may well be a focus on one man by the name of Brown, but surely there can be many many winners from this focused period of activity and celebration?

Take one individual, who otherwise may not have found the time to visit or understand a historic landscape. If through a quirkily titled event, polished TV feature by a popular gardening celebrity, or through some centimetres in a local circular they pause and think about landscape, then a box can be ticked.

That ticked box could lead to an individual journey into landscape, venturing on a course that will take them through fascinating stories of achievement and onto real places where those achievements can be appreciated and celebrated. They may even join a gardens trust or history society that can widen their field of landscape exploration. Who knows where it can lead.

A festival focusing on Brown may be seen by some to be ignoring the valid efforts of many other notable and worthy landscape designers. I would however suggest that any efforts to celebrate Brown are themselves celebrated – as opportunities to champion historic landscapes and their creators in general, promoting one and all.

The Capability Brown Festival year of 2016 will I hope be seen as an opportunity to trigger much needed interest in historic landscapes, which in turn will lead to their support in one form or another. Whether a landscape is given 100% attribution as an authentic Brown creation, or whether it is vaguely similar, Brown having stayed, possibly, in a local inn whilst passing nearby. Does it really matter?

Accuracy and rigour are essential in some respects of course, but let’s not lose focus – 2016 is one huge shop window for landscape and English gardening as a whole, and an opportunity to engage the next generation of fans, artists, workers, fundraisers, gardeners and more. Furthermore, through the focus on Brown, other designers will come into view, be discovered and celebrated, and landscapes supported.

Posted in Brown: Latest News and Posts | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

What would you do if you were Capability Brown today?

An excellent pilot project/example of engagement carried out at National Trust Stowe recently with a group of young film makers. Both ‘The Making of’ and the final ‘What would you do if you were Capability Brown today?’ videos speak perfectly for themselves, and offer an amusing and different perspective on Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Light hearted it may be, but the audience reaction was very positive when the films were shown at the ‘New Ways of Looking at Brown’ event; organised by the Capability Brown Festival team on November 10th 2014.

If you represent an organisation that is looking for a new way of engaging audiences, this could be a very effective route, especially for the age group of those who produced and featured in the videos shown below. A different title, location and group could tackle the same subject from a range of perspectives – the sky is the limit! Generic Learning Outcomes were used to guide and evaluate the project.

The project was supported by National Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and Capability Brown Festival.


Posted in Brown: Latest News and Posts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Day

Today, 2nd October, has been National Poetry Day so I thought I’d dig out a book I stumbled across some while ago by James Muirden called 100 Brits – A rhyming history from Bede to Beckham. Before you click out, there is good reason, and this is to be found on page75, with  a poem about Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

I won’t transcribe the whole rhyme for obvious reasons, but here’s a few small bites to tempt the taste buds:

‘The English garden underwent

a major change when William Kent.

(Brown’s master) gave up tidy hedges,

and flower beds with gravelled edges.

_ _ _

Your trees are mostly misaligned;

your contours must be redesigned;

but it will seem au naturel,

so far as visitors can tell!

_ _ _

Brown got the setters of the trend

to rip out fences, and extend

their acres in a seamless sweep

enlivened by colluding sheep…

_ _ _

His famous nickname celebrates

his sales patter – all estates

were ‘capable’, as you’d expect,

once he’d gone around and checked!

_ _ _

To gaze on Brown’s work helps us sense

the solid Georgian confidence

that made those mighty garden-makers

uplift or scrape down countless acres.

© James Muirden 2007

A good deal more of the rhyme awaits discovery, as do many others including William Hogarth, Edwin Lutyens and Jane Austin. Maybe this will inspire you to create your own Brownian poetry, and of course I’d be happy to share it far and wide on here – do send it in!

If you’d like to acquire a copy of the book, look to ISBN: 1-84024-611-1


Posted in Brown: Books, Brown: Latest News and Posts | Tagged | Leave a comment

The sublime Gothic landscape

Culture and Anarchy

IMG_1280While I tend to find a bit of Gothic in everything, sometimes it stares you in the face, and onIMG_1288 a recent visit to the landscape gardens at Stowe I felt as though I was walking back into the eighteenth century. The grounds are run by the National Trust, while Stowe School occupies the house and surrounding buildings. From the 1730s Stowe was renowned for its gardens, with visitors coming from all over the world to see them, but in the 1740s ‘Capability’ Brown, at the beginning of his career, was appointed to redesign the grounds, and though some of the original features (such as the temple) were kept, the more formal aspects of the garden vanished, with the idea of ‘landscape’ taking over.

Viscount Cobham, the man responsible for taking on the young Brown to reshape his gardens, was part of the beginning of a revolution in taste, of…

View original post 1,015 more words

Posted in Brown: Latest News and Posts | Leave a comment

Wandering Around Wallington

I recently made a visit to the National Trust property of Wallington, situated in Northumberland and not very far from the birthplace of our man ‘Capability’ Brown. I was intrigued and keen to follow-up the connection between this impressive estate, Lancelot’s older brother George and our man Brown.


Wallington’s East front. © Gary Webb 2014

Continue reading

Posted in Brown: Landscapes, Brown: Latest News and Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Capability Brown Has Arrived!


St Wilfred’s, Kirkharle. ©Gary Webb 2014

On this day in history, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716 – 1783) was baptised in St Wilfred’s Church, Kirkharle. Set in the rugged Northumbrian landscape, this charming church would be the place of Worship for the Brown family for many years to come. Continue reading

Posted in Brown: Latest News and Posts, Brown: The knowledge | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Capability Brown

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Originally posted on Croome Redefined:
I am currently making a pair of Capability Brown’s derby shoes with a large buckle at the front. It has been an interesting starting point as they are very different in style to my own…

Gallery | Leave a comment