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Capability Brown 300 Festival

Historic England is a partner in the national 2016 Capability Brown Festival celebrating the 300th anniversary of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783). We have worked with a number of partners on new research into the work of this most renowned of landscape designers, the man known as 'the omnipotent magician'.

Brown worked with landowners across England to create stunning, large-scale landscapes. He dominated his profession and was prolific - his work is everywhere, but his was such a naturalistic style that all his best work was mistaken for untouched nature.  The English Landscape Style developed by Brown and his contemporaries spread across Europe, Russia and North America and continues to shape contemporary landscape design.

New research

Research is an important part of the festival. As a first step, we commissioned University of East Anglia’s Landscape Group to review our research knowledge about Capability Brown landscapes.

The county gardens trusts and other researchers have been adding to our knowledge of individual Brown landscapes and recording their finds on the Parks & Gardens UK database and the National Heritage List for England entries are being updated too.

Map of aerial photographs

Aerial photographs are a great landscape research resource. Search our interactive map to find our recent aerial photographs of key landscapes associated with Capability Brown. Coloured map

Clicking on the map provides a link to the list entry for each of the parks and gardens included on Historic England's Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For those not registered, a link has been created to the relevant entry on the Parks and Gardens UK website.

Each photograph is represented by a dot. Clicking on the dot, brings up details of the date on which the photograph was taken, along with a reference number and a link to view the image. There is also a link to the Historic England Archive should you wish to know more about any particular site or to order a larger copy of an image.

Some images may show features not directly associated with Capability Brown's landscapes, such as cropmarks and other earlier or later landscape design features and structures.

New book: Place-making - The Art of Capability Brown

In Historic England’s new book, coming out November 2016, John Phibbs draws on a wide range of documentary evidence to examine the motivation behind Capability Brown’s landscapes, their value and structure, and their place within the English landscape tradition. Phibbs reveals the thinking behind Brown’s genius and shows us how to interpret his enormous body of work.

Cover of John Phibb's book showing a gazebo reflected in the lake

Historic England have joined forces with crowd-funding publisher Unbound to produce this celebration of Brown’s work, due to be published in November 2016 . Find out more and pledge your support.

See a list of landscapes that have been attributed to 'Capability Brown' (first published in the Garden History Journal). The list reflects our current knowledge about Brown’s involvement or influence with over 250 properties across England and Wales, and even Belgium and Germany and is a key reference for the Capability Brown Festival.

Brown logo with words 1716-2016 300 years Capability Brown in a white roundel

Woman with glasses

Jenifer White

Jenifer White, one of our National Landscape Advisers, leads on the Capability Brown Festival for Historic England. Jenifer is a chartered landscape architect specialising in the conservation of historic parks and gardens.

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