Lancelot 'Capability' Brown
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and Englishness
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (ca.1716-1783) was one of the most celebrated landscape designers of the eighteenth-century in England and is also regarded as the “sole creator of the English landscape garden”(Willis, 1981: p. 158). The “nickname 'Capability' came from his fondness for speaking about a country estate having a great ‘capability’ for improvement”(Willis, 1981, p.159). He was born and raised as the fifth of six children at Kirkharle in Northumberland. After he finished school, at the age of sixteen, he gained his first insight into gardening at Sir William Loraine of Kirkharle. Later in his early twenties, in 1739, he moved to the south of England, where he gained more experience in gardening and finally designed his first lake at Kaddington Park in Oxfordshire. In 1741 he moved to Stowe as head gardener to Lord Cobham. His field of work increased as he did not only designed gardens but also started to build. Brown “fancied himself an architect” (H.M. Colvin, 1978: p.167) rather than a landscape gardener, though he did not differentiate these roles. In Stowe he came into contact with William Kent, the first great exponent of English gardening, and worked for him until 1749. He was his assistant and Lord Clobham’s gardener. When he died, Brown gave up his post and began to practice as a consulting landscape gardener. During his time in Stowe, he became very popular. Consequently he was called upon to design gardens and landscapes in the whole country. Down to the present day his landscapes still exist, mainly in the countryside. In 1764, he became Master Gardener at Hampton Court Palace where he planted the Great Vine (Figure 1.), which became the largest and most famous grape vine in the world (John Phibbs, 2003; p.125). In 1783, at the age of 63, he died and was buried in Huntingdonshire.
[pic] Figure 1: “The Great...