- Compton Place c. 1850 by permission of the Duke of Devonshire and Compton Estate, courtesy of Hastings Library
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was one of the notable landscapers who created the gardens and park at Compton Place in the 18th century.
In 1766 Brown was paid in full for work done at the estate for the 5th Earl of Northampton, who had died in 1754, but there is no record of what Brown did at Compton Place or of his designs. Compton Place is on a site of just under 10 hectares (around 25 acres), on the western edge of Eastbourne, East Sussex.
Payment in full
On 21 February 1766 Brown received a payment of £416 and 10 shillings (around £700,000 in 2015) “in full of his bill and agreement as per voucher” in relation to work done for the late Earl of Northampton. The bill does not appear in Brown’s account book at Drummond’s Bank, so it is thought that the contract began before 1764 and relates to an earlier account book. The 5th earl, who had inherited the estate in 1743, died in 1754.
There is no record of a survey or plan done by Brown for Compton Place. It is known that the current Saffrons Park housing development is on land that was once planted with woodland and contained meandering walks. That area was added to the estate between the mid-18th century and early 19th century, so might fit with the period of Brown’s involvement. There is also a surrounding woodland belt to the north-west of the house.
There is a ha-ha (a sunken wall) made of flint – to the north and west of the estate. This is thought to date to the early 18th century and so is more likely to have been built by landscape designer Charles Bridgeman (1690-1738; Wikipedia), who worked at Compton Place between 1728 and 1738. At that time architect Colen Campbell (1676-1729; Wikipedia) was also remodelling the Jacobean house (now listed Grade I, Historic England).
In the late 18th century the estate was enlarged with land to the east and south. Landscaper Humphry Repton (1752-1818; Wikipedia) was brought in to advise on remodelling the grounds. He produced a Red Book with his proposals in 1803, but it appears that his designs were not used.
Compton Place today
Housing development began at the estate in the late 19th century. Since 1954 Compton Place has been leased to a school. The gardens are now listed Grade II.
Historic England: historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000735