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Capability Brown

English landscape architect

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About Capability Brown

England's greatest landscape gardener.

Lancelot Brown earned his famous nickname in later life when he would look at the garden surrounding an English country home and describe it to its owners as having "capabilities of improvement" thus the name he was given when he was born at Kirkharle, Northumberland in 1715 often remains lost, and this most cherished of English gardeners continues to be known as "Capability" Brown.

Capability Brown is undoubtedly the most outstanding of all the famous 18th-century landscape designers, which is hardly surprising for unlike the others, Lancelot Brown even as a schoolboy at Cambo School, always intended to become a gardener. He began in humble fashion, serving as a gardener's boy on the estate of Sir William Lorraine. This was followed by a period at Wooton for Sir Richard Greville.

Lancelot Brown had a long association with William Kent, whom he met when he moved to join the gardening team at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. William Kent was designing the grounds of Stowe for Lord Cobham, and Brown worked directly under him. A firm friendship developed which was sealed by Brown's marriage to Kent's daughter.

At Stowe, Brown worked under William Kent's instruction, implementing his designs. He was generously permitted by Lord Cobham, owner of Stowe, to carry out work for others, whilst remaining in his employ. In 1749 Lord Cobham died and Brown judged the time was right to branch out on his own. This he did to resounding success, almost instantly his garden designs were at the forefront of fashion and of a style that earned him the title "Landscape Architect of England". He is probably best recognised for his astounding way with water, the lake at Blenheim Palace is an undoubted masterpiece and the great Serpentine Lake at Hyde Park, although not directly Brown's work is regarded as being influenced by his imaginative designs.

During Brown's illustrious career, he designed gardens for almost every noble house in the land. He was a man of vision, his style was not to improve upon but rather to take down and start again. Thus, he created some of the most romantic and celebrated garden settings of his era, fantasies of trees, lawns, water, bridges, classical temples and statutory, all were used by Brown to startling effect. He was a master of his own art, and later he became head gardener of Hampton Court Palace.

When Lancelot Brown died in 1783, he left behind a magnificent legacy of beautiful gardens and gentle, rolling landscapes surrounding the most elegant of English stately homes. His contribution to the landscape heritage of England is without equal, it is the stuff of legends - the humble gardeners boy who through a mixture of endeavour, talent and grand vision became the greatest English landscape designer ever!

Other famous people alive at the time of Capability Brown

Joseph AddisonBorn 1st May 1672, died 17th June 1719 aged 47
Sir Joseph BanksBorn 13th February 1743, died 19th June 1820 aged 77
Thomas BewickBorn August 1753, died 8th November 1828 aged 75
William BlakeBorn 28th November 1757, died 12th August 1827 aged 69
George ByngBorn 1663, died 1733 aged 70
John ByngBorn 29th October 1704, died 14th March 1757 aged 52
George CanningBorn 11th April 1770, died 8th August 1827 aged 57
Henry CavendishBorn 10th October 1731, died 24th February 1810 aged 78
Captain James CookBorn 27th October 1728, died 14th February 1779 aged 50
Robert OwenBorn 14th May 1771, died 17th November 1858 aged 87
John PeelBorn 1776, died 1854 aged 78
Joseph PriestleyBorn 13th March 1733, died 8th February 1804 aged 70
Humphry ReptonBorn 21st April 1752, died 24th March 1818 aged 65
Peter Mark RogetBorn 18th January 1779, died 12th September 1869 aged 90
Sir Richard SteeleBorn 1672, died 1st September 1729 aged 57

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