2016 was the tercentenary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and was marked by a year-long Festival celebrating his life and work, which shaped what we now regard as the quintessential English landscape.
Funded by The National Lottery, throughout 2016 over 500 events organised by 21 partners were attended by hundreds of thousands of people across the country – helping the public gain a greater understanding of the impact and work of Brown. Events included major exhibitions, talks, workshops and performances as well as research, publications and the creation of new landscapes and activities.
Following on from the success of the Festival, the increased profile and interest in Capability Brown has led to the creation of a rich seam of new information on over 100 sites that he is associated with, many of which had no detail about his involvement there easily or publicly available previously.
These 100 sites range from the world-renowned Buckingham Palace and Chatsworth, to lesser known sites such as his birth place of Kirkharle in Northumberland, Burton Constable in East Yorkshire and the increasingly well known Croome (managed by the National Trust), one of the leading examples of his work. This new information paints a richer picture of not just Brown and his clients, but also gives us an insight into the social context of the time.
Maps, drawings and access to Brown’s own account book provide a glimpse into the complex social world Brown operated in, all the way down to the surveyors and labourers that brought the plans to life. In many instances the descriptions highlight key elements of Brown’s design, specific views and details of subsequent changes or additions, so visitors today can view the landscape in its historical context.
Director of the Capability Brown Festival, Ceryl Evans said: “After the success of the Festival it is fantastic to be able to put in place such a large amount of new and accessible information about Capability Brown. Much of this new information wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and research of many of the members of The Gardens Trust, County Garden Trusts and NADFAS who have unearthed exciting information about many of the sites.
The increased footfall across many Brown sites as part of the Festival has provided the impetus for a step-change in how historic sites present their landscapes to visitors, demonstrating the possibilities for a greater emphasis on the land surrounding some of our greatest houses, not just a focus on the house itself. Guided walks, orientation points, events set within the landscape and generally more information about how to ‘read’ and understand what Brown created, have all contributed to the public’s greater enjoyment of what he achieved. We hope this new information will continue to feed that growing interest in Capability Brown and other historic landscapes for many years to come.”