Learn all about Capability Brown

The Capability Brown 300 Steering Group is an influential group of organisations, owners and individuals with a passion for Brown's landscape legacy, who are creating a nationwide Celebration and Festival of the life and work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, planned for the 300th anniversary of his birth in 2016.

The legacy

How natural is a natural landscape? What is a designed landscape? What is the English landscape style? Why does it take so much work to make a designed landscape in the English landscape style look natural? What makes a Brown landscape special? How do I interpret it? How was it made? Who was involved in making and sustaining it? What’s the story of landscape design? How do we conserve our designed landscape heritage for the future?

These are some of the questions that will be tackled as part of a nationwide celebration of the life and work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown planned for the 300th anniversary of his birth in 2016. As Jane Brown’s biography notes, ‘Brown filled England with enchantment – follies, cascades, lakes, bridges, ornaments, monuments, meadows and woods’. His world famous lakes and landscapes are enjoyed by millions and feature as magnificent backdrops in television and film, host abundant wildlife as well as a wide variety of cultural and sporting activities. As the creator of the ‘English landscape style’, he is regarded by landscape architects the world over as the father of their profession.

The 300th birthday will be an opportunity to understand his legacy, to increase its appreciation and enjoyment; and to consider the many lessons for the current generation of landscape architects, ecologists, planners and engineers.

 

The collection

The collection of over 100 of Brown’s surviving landscapes includes the World Heritage Site at Blenheim; sites on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens; listed buildings; scheduled monuments; sites of special scientific interest; semi-natural ancient woodlands; and local sites of important nature conservation.

Brown's landscapes also include designs for the settings of many of the greatest houses in the country, including Blenheim Palace, Alnwick, Chatsworth, Bowood, Warwick Castle and Croome, where he also built the main house for Lord Coventry. At Buckingham Palace, Brown did an undated plan for the garden when it was purchased by George III and he proposed a lake for St James’s Park similar to that constructed.

To prepare for this important celebration an influential group of organisations, owners and individuals with a passion for Brown’s landscape legacy, have created the Capability Brown 300 Celebration and Festival. Partners include the Association of Gardens Trusts, English Heritage, the Garden History Society, the Historic Houses Association, National Gardens Scheme, Natural England, Parks & Gardens UK, Visit Britain, the National Trust and the Landscape Institute. Other organisations, owners and their estate teams and head gardeners, trusts, museums and galleries, institutes, colleges and schools are welcome to join this national partnership too.
 

Our vision

Aims

  • To celebrate Capability Brown as an artist and landscape designer
  • To encourage an increased number of people to visit, learn about and enjoy Brown's landscapes
  • To encourage a greater appreciation of our designed landscape heritage

Objectives

  • To open as many Brown landscapes, houses and features as possible during 2016 including sites that are not usually open to the public
  • To engage volunteers in all aspects of the 2016 celebrations
  • To promote the understanding of Brown’s art and designs and his influence through supporting and encouraging the development of television programmes, books, and exhibitions
  • To stimulate new research
  • To encourage and stimulate conservation projects
  • To champion and develop conservation skills
  • To apply for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the costs of coordinating the 2016 celebrations and attract other funding and sponsorship

Timetable

From 2014 to the end of 2015 we will be working with thousands of volunteers and the owners of Brown landscapes to make preparations for encouraging visitors to their sites and producing information about the history and significance of these important landscapes ready for a launch in early 2016.