Site of the Month - Croome

19.05.2014 | category: General
Image: Croome Lake and Urn © David Norton
Croome, in south Worcestershire, was ‘Capability’ Brown’s first large scale commission. The 6th Earl of Coventry wanted the estate and house he had inherited completely redesigned in the new fashion of the times.

Brown was commissioned by the 6th Earl in 1751, having been introduced by Sanderson Miller who had also worked at Croome. Croome was to be Brown’s first grand design and it marked a key development in the natural looking English Landscape style, which was copied hundreds of times at other country estates across Britain and Europe.

The wider parkland at Croome was an unproductive marshland when Brown arrived, with formal gardens outside the house. He swept away the local village, which was in view of the house, and rebuilt it further away shrouded by tree planting. He removed Croome’s medieval church and created a new Gothic church overlooking the park.

The formal gardens were dug up and in their place Brown created natural looking parkland as far as the eye could see, complete with flowering shrubberies to walk through, temples and follies to add interest, carriage drives to ride on and a hand-dug 1¾ mile long serpentine river topped with a lake. 

Brown expertly drained the land by installing a system of culverts across the estate - brick built drains under the ground which fed into the new lake and river. Brown created elaborate illusions in his new landscape – the river was designed to appear as if it drifted off into the distance around a corner, but in fact abruptly came to an end behind some cleverly planted trees and shrubs. 

The planting carried out at Croome was extensive and many of the trees planted by Brown still survive in the park today including Planes, Cedars and Oaks. By the early 19th century Croome’s reputation for its plant and tree collections was formidable. In 1801 the Annals of Agriculture described Croome as “second only to Kew” for its botanical diversity.

At Croome, Brown created an original masterpiece of landscape design. Remarkably, this was only part of Brown’s exceptional work at Croome. He not only designed the park, but was the architect chosen to remodel Croome Court into the fashionable Palladian style house. Brown directed the creation of many of the mansion’s interiors, plasterwork and decorative schemes, bringing the natural world inside by using flower and fruit motifs.

Thirty years after he started, Brown was still visiting Croome and had become ‘sincere friends’ with the Earl. In February 1783 he died whilst returning home from dining with the Earl at his London home. Their friendship and shared ideals were immortalised in a monument to Brown erected by the 6th Earl at Croome’s lakeside:

To the Memory of Lancelot Brown
Who by the powers of his inimitable and creative genius
formed this garden scene out of a morass.