Karen Lynch, of the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, believes she may have discovered a new Brown site in the course of her recent research, she writes.
- Print of Shillinglee Park 1832 from James Dallaway 'History of the Three Rapes of Sussex' Vol. II © WSRO (Ref No: Lib 2395)
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown billed the 1st Earl Winterton in the early 1760s for visits and advice on replanning his estate at Shillinglee Park.
Capability Brown was working in the county at Petworth from 1751, and an invoice sent to Earl Winterton by Brown in 1762 suggests that his involvement at Shillinglee, Kirdford, West Sussex, was during that period. Though the results of Brown’s designs were not seen during the 1st Earl Winterton’s lifetime, by 1836 it was clear a less formal parkland was in place, with thousands of new trees planted by the earl in the1760s, the edges of the lake being smoothed out and a new curving drive replaced the previous more formal drive through the park in Brown's style.
Survey and plan
The estate map (left) dates from 1735, showing it before Brown's work. On 7 February 1762 Brown sent a bill to Earl Winterton for a survey and expenses amounting to £12 and 13 shillings (around £22,000 in 2015) – a rate of 4 pence per acre. Further costs included “To a general Plan for the Place very large and very troublesome" and various other visits amounting to a total of £84 and 3 shillings (about £146,000 in 2015). The estimated size of the park at Shillinglee was 307 hectares (759 acres).
Planting little acorns
Earl Winterton had been granted his title in 1761. Over the next few years he was very active enlarging the house with its new south front. That period of planting corresponds with Brown’s survey and visits by his men to Shillinglee.
The earl began planting two areas of land to the east of the Park – Kings Park and Ash Park in the style of Brown. Certificates from the early 1760s record how these areas were to be ploughed, fenced and “planted with 84 bushells of the best and soundest acorns”. Documents from 1766 record “2,000 small-leaved English Elms” for Ash Park together with the planting of 12,000 Spanish chestnuts in other areas. He was awarded medals from the Royal Society for his tree planting.
In 1766 the earl was buying more exotic trees from Viscount Midleton’s tree nursery including White American ash, sweetgums and small Virginian tulip trees.
According to a map dated 1808, few of the changes proposed by Brown were completed during the lifetime of the 1st Earl Winterton, who died in 1788. Later maps show that his design may have eventually been carried out, perhaps by the second or even third earl. By 1836 the estate contains all the hallmarks of Brown's landscapes. There are the rolling contours, the serpentine lake and extensive tree planting, including single trees and clumps. The tree-lined South Walk, which appears on the estate map of around 1735, has become a curving drive that divides in the middle of the park. The edges of the lake have been smoothed out at the eastern end, as have the stream that feeds the lake at the western end.
The estate remained in the Turnour family until the 1970s. The house (listed Grade II*, Historic England) was destroyed by fire in 1942 and remained a ruin until the 1970s when it was rebuilt as apartments. The estate is divided but the park boundaries have remained as they were and the landscape retains its identity. It is not open to the public.
Information courtesy of Sussex Gardens Trust: Sally Walker, 'Shillinglee Park' in Susi Batty (ed), Capability Brown in Sussex, 2016: www.sussexgardenstrust.org.uk
Shillinglee Park estate map c.1735 made for Edward Turnour Esq. reproduced courtesy of West Sussex Record Office (ref: Shillinglee Mss/26/10)
Brown's invoice is held by British Library here