Lancelot 'Capability' Brown is thought to have redesigned the walled garden at Uppark for Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh and his wife Sarah.
Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh bought the Uppark estate in 1746 and Brown has been credited with a plan for the gardens that dates from around 1750. That plan was unsigned but it shows elements that fit with Brown’s style. These include serpentine walks and features like 'The Menagery' and 'The Rotunda upon the Great Mount'. Uppark, near Petersfield, West Sussex, covers 362 hectares (894 acres) of land in the South Downs, including 5 hectares of ornamental gardens.
An unsigned plan
Brown’s involvement at Uppark is based on an assumption that the unsigned plan dating from around 1750 (above, © National Trust) was by him but recent archaeological research has cast significant doubt on this. The oval-shaped ornamental garden at Uppark lies north and north-east of the house. It is bounded by a flint wall about 1.2 metres (4 feet) high that first appears on that plan. This walled area replaced a narrow, U-shaped garden that was shown on a sale plan of 1746, at the time when Sir Matthew bought Uppark.
The plan shows features that are in Brown’s style, such as the mount marked as the site for a rotunda (domed circular building) but which was probably never built, and an area of open lawn surrounded by trees and shrubs that later became the Amphitheatre Garden.
The confusion over whether Brown can be linked to Uppark arises because a surveyor called Thomas 'Sense' Browne (1702-80) worked at the estate. When Sir Matthew bought Uppark in 1746 he ordered a survey and plan of his property from 'Sense' Browne and his assistant, James Crow. There is a record of this Browne being paid £300 (£550,000 in 2015) in March 1747 for his work.
Therefore, although the plan has historically been linked to Capability Brown, it may have been the work of 'Sense' Browne. That key document was lost in a fire in 1989 and there are no references in Capability Brown’s account book or those of Sir Matthew to link him with Uppark. However, he was working at Petworth from 1751, so it is certainly possible that he worked here then.
Uppark after the 18th century
The next owner of Uppark, Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, made further improvements to the house and gardens. He hired landscaper Humphry Repton (1752-1818) to redesign the gardens and a Red Book was published in 1810.
The 17th-century Uppark House is now listed Grade I and the gardens are listed Grade II*. The estate was given to the National Trust in 1954, though the park remains in private ownership.
Information courtesy of Sussex Gardens Trust, Susi Batty, 'Red Herrings: In search of 'Capability' Brown at Uppark' in Susi Batty (ed), Capability Brown in Sussex, 2016 www.sussexgardenstrust.org.uk
Historic England: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000347
National Trust: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/uppark-house-and-garden/
Archaeological research by Fred Aldsworth published in Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol. 154, 2015, pages 113-170