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.
One of Lancelot “Capability” Brown's final projects was his plan for remodelling the park at Stapleton for Lord Stourton.
Brown’s account book confirms that he visited Stapleton, near Pontefract, West Yorkshire, in October 1782. Surveyor John Spyers had already spent about five weeks working at the estate earlier that year. Although his plan has not survived, the finished landscape included a lake, belts and clumps of trees, a ha-ha (sunken wall) and a Gothic farmhouse.
Plantations and eye-catchers
Stapleton was the Yorkshire residence of Edward Lascelles from 1762. He was the cousin of Edwin Lascelles, of Harewood. By the time Lascelles decided to let the estate in 1782, the park had already been enlarged and there were new plantations.
The next phase of work took place when Lord Stourton was a tenant there; he purchased the estate later. Details of the redesign of the park can be pieced together from the description of the estate when it was put up for sale in 1813. The sales material praises the “well-Timbered Park, divided with sunk Fences and encircled with the most luxuriant Plantations”. The accompanying map shows a lake, with clumps and belts of trees. (left: Plan of the Lordship of Stapleton, 1813 Courtesy of the Hepworth Wakefield, Gott Collection)
Another description of the property for sale mentions “several compact farms” at Stapleton. In particular, there was an ornamented Gothic farmhouse, which served as an eye-catcher. These may have dated from an earlier period when Edward Lascelles was the owner, as Brown had used this idea at Harewood.
Brown died in February 1783, before much progress had been made in redesigning Stapleton. His fee of £69 and 10 shillings (equivalent to more than £100,000 in 2015) was paid to his executors, as noted in his account book (right). At the same time, surveyor Thomas White (1739-1811), who had earlier worked as foreman to Brown, appears to have taken over at Stapleton. Stourton paid him the first of two sums of £300 (£435,000 in 2015). It is not clear which elements of the finished design were the work of Brown or his successor.
In the early 20th century the estate was broken up and sold in lots and the house was pulled down. Although the parkland has been used for farming, you can still see Brownian features like the outline of the lake, clumps of trees and traces of the ha-ha. Castle Farm, which lies just outside the park, is still prominent.
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 160, reproduced by permission of the RHS: www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/capability-brown-account-book