Scampston in North Yorkshire has played a significant role in the Capability Brown Festival and are now poised to take their heritage learning programmes a step further.
- The lake from Brown's Palladian bridge © Scampston Hall
- The lake at Scampston © Scampston Hall
- Scampston Hall by Francis Nicholson © Chapter of York: Reproduced by kind permission
- Brown's Palladian bridge at Scampston © Scampston Hall
In the 1770s Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown created a new landscape for the park at Scampston, for Sir William St Quintin, the 5th Baronet.
The estate is of around 170 hectares (420 acres) and lies on flat land on the southern edge of the Vale of Pickering, near Malton, East Yorkshire. Capability Brown’s account book (see on RHS website) records a visit there in the autumn of 1773, though he may have advised Sir William before that date. Features thought to have been designed by Brown at Scampston include the attractive Palladian bridge and cascade.
The ‘Great Water’
Work began on the park at Scampston in the late 1750s, when Brown was advising at other properties in Yorkshire (such as Howsham). It has been suggested that his masterplan for Scampston dates from this time and that work was under way when he returned there more than ten years later. He was building on earlier designs by landscape architect Charles Bridgeman (1690–1738, Wikipedia) in the 1730s, which included a central lawn bordered by trees and shrubs, and a T-shaped canal.
The account books from Scampston show that by 1759 the ‘Great Water’ had replaced earlier formal water features. Around this time the turnpike road was moved to enlarge the park. Scampston Bridge carried this new road across the Swan Beck. This appears in paintings of 1763–64, as does the gothic Deer House, south of the road, which has also been linked with Brown. It is not clear whether he was involved in the works of the 1760s.
Brown’s name appears in the Scampston accounts in 1771, when a Mr Luccock (possibly Percival Luccock) was paid for ‘drawing a plan to send to Mr Brown’.
‘New River’ and cascade
In a new phase of work, the Great Water was extended, with the Swan Beck reshaped to create the ‘New River’. This continued south under Scampston Bridge as far as Scampston Mill, where planting covered the head of the water. The north end of the river, close to the house, finished at a Palladian bridge (now listed Grade II*, Historic England) designed by Brown, which was blocked at the rear to hide the end of its course.
With three arches and a covering pavilion supported by columns, the bridge at Scampston is an elegant feature that echoes the style of the covered bridges at Stowe, Buckinghamshire and Wilton House, Wiltshire (Photo above,
© Simon Warner).
Brown also built a cascade, probably dated around March 1773, which allowed for a change in the water level. A letter from Sir William refers to the cascade and a ha-ha (sunken wall) that was under way at that time. Work on the water was finished by 1777.
In May 1773 Brown’s account at Drummond's Bank was credited with £100 (£162,000 in 2015) from Sir William. This sum is thought to have covered his plans for the park, including the bridge and cascade. He has also been credited with redesigning the house (now listed Grade II*, Historic England) during this period. The only evidence for this lies in similarities between the corner turrets at Scampston Hall and those at the properties he is known to have designed at Croome Park, Worcestershire and Newnham Paddox, Warwickshire.
Scampston after Brown
A guidebook from 1787 praised the maturing Brownian landscape at Scampston, though his name was not mentioned: "The park, ornamented ground, and the splendid mansion […] received most of the improvements from the finished taste, good sense, and munificence of Sir William St. Quintin, Bart."
The site remains in private ownership. The house and gardens are open to the public, and visitors can still see Brown’s work on a self-guided walk along the Cascade Circuit.
See below for a downloadable leaflet with a map of Brown's work at Scampston.
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
English Heritage list entry: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1175313