Published by the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, Noble Prospects: Capability Brown & the Yorkshire Landscape tells the story of Brown’s work in Yorkshire, from his first known consultation at Harewood in 1758 to new projects at Stapleton and Byram just a few months before he died in 1783.
Beginning in 1762, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown carried out several phases of work at Sandbeck Park for the 4th Earl of Scarbrough.
Two contracts, one from 1760 (not known to have survived) and the other dated 12 September 1774, cover the period of Capability Brown’s involvement with the estate near Rotherham, South Yorkshire. By the early 1770s the grounds had been ‘ornamented with great judgement’, with terraces to the south and west of the house, winding gravel walks, the construction of the Upper Lake, new plantations and a scenic approach to the new house. Brown also worked for the Earl of Scarbrough at Roche Abbey.
Under the second contract the earl instructed Brown to finish various works at Sandbeck. This included building a ha-ha (sunken wall), removing and draining old ponds close to the house and planting trees there. Brown’s foreman Adam Mickle worked for Brown at Sandbeck for 20 years and his son Adam was also employed there.
The cost of the works
There is a reference in the client’s family archives to workers felling trees at Sandbeck in 1763 to ‘Mr Brown’s orders’. Records at Hoare’s Bank show that substantial payments were made to Brown before that, beginning on 20 January 1762. The earl’s account books show payments to Brown between January 1762 and February 1768 totalling £1,250 (more than £2.1 million in 2015). It is not clear what these were for and they may also cover work at the Glentworth estate in Lincolnshire.
Under the second contract future payments totalling £3,000 (around £4.7 million in 2015) were set out, which were to be paid in phases.
Brown and the earl ended their involvement in 1779. Although the earl had agreed to settle his accounts by August of that year, he accused Brown of making too much profit. Payment of the outstanding £1,500 (£2.3 million in 2015) was not settled until ten years after Brown’s death.
‘The finest feature’
There was admiration for Brown’s vision in creating a new drive to the house at Sandbeck, which had been remodelled by architect James Paine (1717–1789, Wikipedia). Despite the road being ‘almost straight’, the placing of clumps of trees and beds of flowers gave frequent views of the countryside and kept the end point out of sight.
Sandbeck Park remains in private ownership. The house is Grade I listed (Historic England) and the ha-ha is listed Grade II.
Information courtesy of the Yorkshire Gardens Trust and the New Arcadian Press.
For an extended and fully annotated account please see: Karen Lynch, ‘Capability Brown in Yorkshire’, in Dr Patrick Eyres (Ed), Yorkshire Capabilities: New Arcadian Journal 75/76, 2016 www.newarcadianpress.co.uk
For a lavishly illustrated account of Brown in Yorkshire please see: Karen Lynch, Noble Prospects: Capability Brown & the Yorkshire Landscape, Harrogate: Mercer Art Gallery & Yorkshire Gardens Trust, 2016 www.yorkshiregardenstrust.org.uk
Capability Brown's account book, page 49: www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/capability-brown-account-book
Historic England list entry: historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001161
Parks & Gardens UK: www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/2902