Not Just Green Spaces: Buildings Designed by Capability Brown

30.09.2016 | category: General
Coombe park menagerie © Coventry City Council
Coombe park menagerie © Coventry City Council

His visionary landscape designs punctuate the natural environment to this day, and brought Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown lasting fame. But what many people forget about Capability Brown is that he also designed buildings and monuments within his commissioned landscapes. Surviving examples are rare and often protected by listing, to preserve their important architectural representation of this great landscape designer.

Here are three that we think have a particularly interesting story to tell:

The Burton Pynsent Column, Somerset

Sir William Pynsent was a successful businessman in the Somerset cider trade, and owner of a sizable estate. In 1763, the government of the time were considering putting a higher tax on cider and William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, came to the rescue and strongly opposed the proposal. Pynsent was so thrilled by this support that upon his death, and to his family’s horror, he bequeathed his entire estate to the Earl. Pitt commissioned Capability Brown to design the Grade I listed 140ft Burton Pynsent column, and the Grade II listed surrounding landscape in homage to its generous benefactor.

Corsham’ s Gothic Bath House, Wiltshire

As well as ‘naturalising’ the grounds and remodelling the house of former Crown Estate, Brown also designed the Grade I listed gothic bath house of Corsham Court. The health fad of the late 18th century, said to increase life expectancy, prescribed a cold regime: cold baths, cooling food, spending time outdoors and exercise. For this reason, the structure was set away from the main house so it had to be walked to and from.

Coombe Abbey’s Menagerie and farm buildings, Warwickshire

In 1770, Brown was given full artistic licence by the Earl of Craven to lay the landscape of Coombe Abbey. The menagerie building is hidden in woodland, across the serpentine lake. The central building was designed for the owner and his guests to view the menagerie’s exotic animal collection in comfort. After sadly falling into disrepair, the building was recently restored, and is now a private residence.

Read more about incredible Georgians on the Historic England website here.

About the Author: Marina Nenadic, Historic England.