In 1774 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was commissioned by banker George Clive for work at Mount Clare, Roehampton, Surrey.
Capability Brown was paid £206 (around £330,000 in 2015) in 1774 and a further payment in June 1775 by Clive, but it is not known what he did at Mount Clare, which had been part of Putney Park.
One theory is that Clive employed Brown and his son-in-law, the architect Henry Holland (Wikipedia), in 1772–73 to build the house and design the gardens at Mount Clare. There are similarities with Brown’s work at nearby Claremont. Others believe that architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788, Wikipedia) built the house, and that Brown was only involved in the landscaping at Mount Clare.
An engraving by William Watts (1752–1851) dating from soon after Brown’s death shows the sweep of land to the front of the house, with mature oaks to the rear and side. This is the only known image of Mount Clare from Brown’s day (above).
The property is shown from the rear in an engraving of 1850, with Brown’s signature tree, a cedar of Lebanon, growing beside it. That tree survived into the 21st century, along with others from Brown’s time or just after it.
20th century developments
Until about 1930 Mount Clare kept its surrounding parkland with a nearby farm. Although a large hedge now blocks the view to the front of the house, you can still see how the estate would have extended into a grass-covered valley before rolling upwards.
The house is now part of the University of Roehampton and is next to the Richmond Park golf course. The Brown landscaping survives, with its extensive lawns, mature trees and the wave-like undulations of the ground.
Brown has also been linked with another building at the University of Roehampton, the nearby Grade II* listed Grove House (Historic England). The gardens contain a number of mature cedars and there is a lake with a three arched dummy or ‘sham’ bridge (now listed Grade II, Historic England). Brown is known to have worked for the Vanneck family, who also owned Heveningham Hall, Suffolk, but there is no evidence confirming that he worked at Grove House.
London Parks & Gardens Trust: www.londongardenstrust.org/features/MountClare.htm
Illustration: Mount Clare in an engraving from 1779 by William Watts (Public domain)