- Cuffnells, drawn by John Britton 1802, from Beauties of England & Wales by John Britton & E W Brayley Courtesy of Angela Trend
In 1780 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was paid for work on the park at Cuffnells for owner Sir Thomas Tancred.
Capability Brown’s accounts shows that he was paid by Sir Thomas Tancred, Bart. for work at Cuffnells. Little is known about Brown’s improvements at the estate, which lies south of Lyndhurst, on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire. Cuffnells had a lake, kitchen garden, orangery and arboretum. In the late 18th century the garden was well known for its specimens of exotic plants.
Brown’s account book (see online) records that he received £165 (£244,400 in 2015) on 25 March 1780 for "Work done at Cuffnells before it was sold to George Rose" who, according to the Rev. William Gilpin, continued the landscaping. There are no details of the work that was done there.
Though Brown’s role at Cuffnells isn’t clear, it probably went beyond supplying a survey and a plan for Sir Thomas. When George Rose bought the estate in 1784 he is thought to have called in one of Brown’s rivals, landscape gardener William Emes (1729-1803, Wikipedia), to continue the remodelling. Emes is quoted as saying that he could not improve on nature. There is a lake, surrounded by trees, which may have been designed or remodelled at Brown’s suggestion. The estate also had an arboretum crossed by winding paths and a kitchen garden. Rose was known as a keen gardener, and he employed architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837, Wikipedia) to build a large orangery along the south front of the newly enlarged house. During his ownership the estate was known for specimens of the many exotic plants that were then being brought into England.
Alice at Cuffnells
In the mid-1850s Cuffnells was bought by Jonathan Hargreaves, whose family kept the estate for almost 100 years. His son Reginald married Alice Liddell, who as a young girl had inspired author Lewis Carroll (1832-98, Wikipedia) to write the children’s fantasy Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Cuffnells Park today
The house at Cuffnells was used by the army during the Second World War. After the war the estate, then around 67 hectares (165 acres), was sold and the house eventually pulled down.
Cuffnells is now part of Wilverley Farm, with parkland and fenced areas of fields. Some of the outbuildings from the former Cuffnells estate have survived, including the Grade II-listed north lodge (Historic England). Though the kitchen garden and arboretum are in a poor state, the lake can still be seen surrounded by trees.
Hampshire Gardens Trust: research.hgt.org.uk/item/cuffnells-park/
Capability Brown's account book, page 141: www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/capability-brown-account-book
Dorothy Stroud, Capability Brown, Faber & Faber, 1975, page 221
Cuffnells, drawn by John Britton 1802, from Beauties of England & Wales by John Britton & E W Brayley reproduced courtesy of Angela Trend