Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was born at Kirkharle in Northumberland. His exact date of birth is not known but he was baptised on 30th August 1716 in St Wilfrid’s Church in Kirkharle, so we can assume he was a summer baby, probably born sometime in the preceding six weeks. The fifth of six children born to George and Ursula Brown, he lived in a now vanished house on the Kirkharle Estate, remaining at school until the age of 16. He then learnt his trade working on the Kirkharle Estate then owned by the Loraine family, who seem to have been very supportive of the Brown family and encouraged their talent.
Brown left Kirkharle at the age of 23, and within 2 years was head gardener to Lord Cobham at Stowe in Buckinghamshire, from where his career really took off. In 1980 an original Brown plan for the redevelopment of Kirkharle parkland was discovered by the current owners John and Kitty Anderson. The actual date is unclear but it could have been drawn by Brown as a young man before he left Northumberland. In 2010 the plan was put into action. Today you can walk around the lake envisaged by Brown and see the landscape he imagined for his childhood home. Today we see most of his designs as mature landscapes, but he and the people who commissioned his work would have been more familiar with them as young landscapes, created through manpower, horsepower and great ingenuity.
Kirkharle Courtyard Craft Centre is open free everyday apart for the Christmas and New Year holidays. This year, as one of the pilots programmes for the Capability Brown Festival, Kirkharle is taking part in Heritage Open Days, celebrating Capability Brown on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 September: from 11.00 – 16.00 with talks and tours of the site.
Find out more on the Heritage Open Days website.