Explore a map of aerial photos of landscapes associated with Capability Brown and Humphry Repton.
The English are, and always have been, a nation of gardeners. The results of centuries of working the soil and shaping the landscape can be seen everywhere in the form of historic parks and gardens from town gardens and public parks to the great country estates.
Our research looks at the historic interest, protection and conservation needs of these special places.
We use the term, ‘Designed landscapes’ to capture the wide range of ornamental and recreational landscape types and landscapes that are aesthetically planned, such as :
- Gardens and landscapes associated with domestic use
- Sites associated with one household or dwelling such as Stowe or Petworth, palaces, country houses, manor houses, villas, town gardens, terraced houses, cottages.
- Sites associated with more than one household or dwelling such as communal gardens, squares, housing development.
- Sites associated with private amenity, but which are not attached to public parks, a particular house or housing scheme, such as private resorts or rented town gardens.
- Designed landscapes belonging to, or associated with, institutions such as asylums, botanical gardens, cemeteries and even institutional landscapes, colleges, factories, hospitals, hotels, museums, pumping stations, power generation, reservoirs, golf courses and sports facilities.
- Landscapes designed or used for public amenity and recreation such as public parks, public gardens, public walks, public resorts, country parks.
- Large scale planned landscapes such as forests, industrial or mineral workings reclamation schemes, transport routes, new towns, riversides and coasts.
Many of these sites are of special historic interest. Since 1983 key sites have been selected and added to the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
The English Landscape Garden in Europe
The 18th century English Landscape Garden style has been described as England’s greatest contribution to the Arts. Michael Symes’ book "The English Landscape Garden in Europe", provides an overview of how this style spread.
Research into Lancelot 'Capability' Brown
See our new research and resources created to mark the Capability Brown 300 festival.
Humphry Repton landscapes
Humphry Repton was the self-proclaimed successor to Capability Brown. He was a prolific designer and there are some 300 registered parks and gardens associated with him. Unlike Brown, Repton published his theories and also produced beautiful illustrated books of his designs for individual clients which are still treasured. Find out more about Repton and research into his landscapes.
Researching the history of public funding for parks
In July 2016 the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced an inquiry into public parks to examine concerns that public parks are under threat. The research report on the History of Public Park Funding and Management (1820-2010) which we commissioned, has been included as part of Historic England’s submission to the inquiry.
The report will be of interest to local authority portfolio holders, parks teams, friends groups and urban historians. It provides an overview of past public park funding models and their management. The findings show a long history of funding problems but also the important role of local authorities in developing, and often rescuing parks, and delivering public parks for over 170 years.
Rediscovering Reginald Farrer's pioneering rock garden
Potential plans to refurbish and replant an important rock garden at Ingleborough in the Yorkshire dales that was developed in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period have stimulated the first serious study of its layout and history – and the influential innovations trialled at the site.
This was the former private rock garden of Reginald John Farrer (1880–1920): ‘the father of modern rock gardening’.
Bicentenary of Victorian landscape gardener, Edward Kemp
2017 marked the bicentenary of the Victorian landscape gardener, Edward Kemp (25 September 1817 – 1 March 1891).
As a protégée of Joseph Paxton, Kemp was appointed the Superintendent of the new Birkenhead Park, the first public park and one of the special '100 Places' chosen by the public in that Historic England campaign.
Kemp went on to design many private gardens, public parks and cemeteries and particularly in North West England. Historic England’s blog provides an introduction to his designs.
As part of the World Urban Parks European Congress 16-19 October 2017 a special research symposium was held on Edward Kemp to mark his 200th birthday. Historic England supported 2017 Wirral Council in hosting the symposium and also the publication of the proceedings as a special online supplement of 'Garden History' journal. The supplement includes papers on:
- Barbara Simms- Editorial
- Robert Lee - Preface: ‘Will the Real Edward Kemp Step Forward?’
- Elizabeth Davey ‘Edward Kemp (1817–91): ‘an able and useful man’
- Jan Woudstra ‘One of the Ablest Landscape Gardeners’: Edward Kemp (1817–91) in a nineteenth-century professional context’
- Paul Elliott ‘Creating Suburbia: the gardenesque, place, association and the rustic tradition;
the landscape gardening philosophy and practices of Edward Kemp (1817–91)’
- Katy Layton-Jones ‘How to Lay Out a Very Large Garden Indeed: Edward Kemp’s Liverpool parks, their history and legacy’
- David Lambert ‘A Beautiful Balance’? Edward Kemp and Grosvenor Park, Chester’
- Chris Mayes ‘‘Calculated to Improve the Morals and the Taste’: Edward Kemp’s cemetery designs in Liverpool and Birkenhead; efficiency and aesthetics in public landscapes’
- Elizabeth Davey ‘Landscape Designs for ‘Gentlemen of Wealth’: Edward Kemp’s private commissions’
- David Bawden ‘In this Book-Making Age’: Edward Kemp as writer and communicator of horticultural knowledge’
- Robert Lee ‘The Challenge of Managing the First Publicly Funded Park: Edward Kemp as the ‘fixed’ Superintendent of Birkenhead Park, 1843–91’
- Robert Lee ‘The Future of Edward Kemp: designed parks and cemeteries and the role of Friends Groups’
- Elizabeth Davey ‘Gazetteer of Identified Commissions by Edward Kemp (1843–87):
by historic (pre-1974) counties’
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.