Monument to Capability Brown to west of Broad Water


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1158972

Date first listed: 10-Jan-1985

Date of most recent amendment: 18-May-2012



Ordnance survey map of Monument to Capability Brown to west of Broad Water
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Silsoe

National Grid Reference: TL0934735051


A garden monument erected in 1760. It is attributed to the architect Edward Stevens in commemoration of Lancelot "Capability" Brown's mid C18 modification of the gardens.

Reasons for Designation

The monument to Capability Brown, Wrest Park is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural and Artistic Interest: This monument is a commissioned work by the architect Edward Stevens who was also responsible for other structures at Wrest Park. It is immediately striking because of its curious form and appearance and its distinctive sculptural qualities are enhanced further by its setting within the registered landscape; * Historic Interest: As well as being early in date, it commemorates key phases of development at Wrest Park, and has an association with the important figures involved in them: Henry Duke of Kent and Jemima, Marchioness Grey; * Group Value: For its contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its association with the house and other listed structures on the estate.


Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1702, Wrest became the property of Henry de Grey who, by 1710, had become the Duke of Kent. Henry was determined to improve the status of Wrest. At this time the gardens to the south were enlarged, alterations made to the water courses, and a number of garden buildings were constructed. A summer house was placed by the mill pond and a greenhouse was added to the Orange Garden. The architect Thomas Archer was responsible for many of these structures including the Pavilion (Grade I) which marked the southern limit of the garden as defined by the Old Brook. The alignment of the Old Brook is still maintained as the boundary between the parishes of Silsoe and Gravenhurst. Cain Hill was incorporated into the landscape as an eye catcher, its presence emphasised by the geometric axis which, eventually, led east from the house and north-east from the Archer Pavilion partly in the form of avenues.

In the 1720s additional land was acquired, various alterations to the canals were carried out and several garden buildings were commissioned, from the Italian architects Filippo Juvarra and Giacomo Leoni, but also from others, predominantly Nicholas Hawksmoor, William Kent and James Gibbs. Of these the Temple of Diana (now demolished), the West Half House (Grade II) and the East Half House (Grade II) were built. The allees (avenues) and squares, either side of the Great Canal, were also created by 1726 marking the peak of the formal garden at Wrest. Two plans drawn by Rocque in 1735 and 1737 illustrate some of these changes. In 1729 work resumed with additions including an amphitheatre to the north of the bowling green and the creation of the serpentine canal. A greenhouse (on the site of the current Orangery) and the addition to, and enlargement of Bowling Green House (Grade II*) were also completed, both by Batty Langley.

The Duke died in 1740 and the estate passed to his granddaughter Jemima who had recently married Philip Yorke, the son of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke. They showed great interest in the garden and had great influence in its development, In 1758 Jemima commissioned Lancelot (Capability) Brown but he was constrained by her high regard for the existing landscape and reluctance to make significant alterations to the garden created by her grandfather. Brown's alterations were limited to laying the waters together around the garden and making the previously straight canals meander in a more naturalistic manner. Various buildings including the Chinese Summerhouse (Grade II) and Chinese Bridge and the Bath House (Grade II*) were added under Jemima's instruction.

The Monument to Capability Brown is attributed to the architect Edward Stevens (1744-1775) who also designed in the bath house and the Chinese Summerhouse at Wrest. It was erected in 1760 to be viewed from the nearby bathhouse. It was moved to its present position in 1828. It is also believed that the rustication of the columns was a later addition to celebrate the rustication of the earlier garden. The fact that the rustication is a rather curious feature which interrupts the line of the column gives some credence to this suggestion.


MATERIALS: the main construction material is Ketton stone.

DESCRIPTION: the monument is in the form of a Doric column which is approximately 6 metres in height, and is `broken' by 2 rusticated blocks. It is surmounted by a stone finial which is ornamented with acanthus leaves. The column is mounted on top of a rectangular plinth which has a moulded base and cap with large torus moulding. An inscription to the south side of the plinth reads: 'These gardens originally laid out by Henry Duke of Kent, were altered by Philip Earl of Hardwicke and Jemima Marchioness Grey, with the professional assistance of Lancelot Brown Esq. in the years 1758, 1759, 1760.'


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 37761

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Roscoe, I, Hardy, E, Sullivan, M G, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660-1851, ((2009))
Smith, N, Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, English Heritage Guidebook, (2008)
Cole, D, Beresford, C and Shackell, A, Historical Survey of Wrest Park, (2005),
Davies, J P S , Report on the Garden Ornaments at Wrest Park 1700-1917, (2007),
Donald Insall Associates, Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, Conservation Management Plan, (2009),

End of official listing