On the 22nd November 2016, the Capability Brown Festival team joined a charming celebration of the wedding anniversary of Lancelot Capability Brown and Bridget Wayet at Stowe Parish Church. Festival team member Catherine writes about the experience.
As Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was standing with his new wife on the steps of Stowe Church on the 22nd November 1744, I doubt he would have known that 272 years later a gathering would be held in that very church to remember and celebrate the occasion.
Brown’s time at Stowe, Buckinghamshire, was something of a launching point for what was going to be a stellar career. The gardens at Stowe were already famous when he reached the great estate in 1741 and it was here that Brown cut his teeth, and experimented with the style that would become so iconic. Under William Kent, Brown was employed as an under gardener and rose to the rank of head gardener by the age of just 25.
Brown married Bridget (‘Biddy’) Wayet, the daughter of a very respectable Lincolnshire family, at the lovely little church. The couple were to have nine children together, four of whom were baptised at this church. The building is more than 800 years old, the earliest parts of which date back to 1270. Appealingly tucked out of view by evergreens, the Church has a feeling of peaceful seclusion. The church is all that remains of the medieval village that once stood on that site, and today is always open during the day for curious visitors to enjoy.
On the rainy afternoon of Tuesday 22nd November, a small group gathered to commemorate and celebrate the wedding anniversary. A wonderful dramatic reading of key scenes from Brown’s life was woven throughout the service. We heard from the Vicar Henry Gabell, who married the pair, the architect James Gibbs and Alexander Pope.
It was a privilege to have two of Brown’s descendants attend the ceremony and lay a bouquet beneath the signatures of Bridget and Brown that are engraved on the window pane, copied from the Church Register by Simon Whistler. A toast was raised to the happy memory of Brown and Bridget’s wedding day as the bells rang out across the landscape.
The gathering provided an opportunity to learn about the upcoming launch of the ExploreChurches website; a new, engaging, vibrant and easy to use website designed to encourage and enable visitors to discover, visit and experience churches, chapels and meeting houses as treasure houses of heritage, history and community. Start exploring at www.explorechurches.org.
About the author: Catherine Hempenstall is a member of the Capability Brown Festival team