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Capability Brown Landscapes Celebrated and Protected

  • Historic England adds two Capability Brown landscapes to the National Heritage List for England (The List) – Stoke Place in Buckinghamshire and Peper Harow Park in Surrey
  • Seven other sites, including the landscape designer’s home, re-listed to celebrate designer’s national importance
  • Bird’s-eye view of Capability Brown sites revealed as new aerial photography map launched
  • Historic England’s crowd-funded book on Capability Brown to be published this Autumn

Aerial view of Wotton Underwood Landscape in Buckinghamshire
Upgraded to Grade I, Wotton Underwood Landscape in Buckinghamshire © Historic England

Historic England is protecting and celebrating the work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (c.1716-1783), England’s leading and most influential landscape designer of the 18th century. Responsible for moulding large swathes of the English parks into the sweeping views and picturesque lakes we know and love, his landscapes are reckoned among the country’s most important contributions to European civilization.

In the 300th year since his birth, his work is being recognised and protected anew. By adding the Parks and Gardens to the List, Historic England hopes to increase awareness of their historic value and encourage everyone to treat these special places with due care.

Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: "Capability Brown was a pioneer in landscape design, whose stunning work is still revered 300 years on at beautiful locations throughout the country. I’m delighted that two of his landscapes have been added to the National Heritage List for England, ensuring that these stunning scenes continue to be recognised for centuries to come."

Dr Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing for Historic England said: “Lancelot Brown was one of the great creative forces of Georgian England. Steeped in the practicalities of garden design, he brought a lyrical eye to the landscape and envisioned how nature could be improved upon. Historic England is delighted to be part of the Capability Brown Festival, and proud to help protect even more of his wonderful parks.”

Ceryl Evans, Director of the Capability Brown Festival said: “It is a fitting tribute, in this 300th year since Brown’s birth, that his legacy is celebrated with the addition of two landscapes to the List and the re-listing of seven other sites. People have been enjoying Brown’s quintessential British landscapes for hundreds of years, and now, with this special status, the sites will be protected for generations to come. The creation of an aerial map also means that people can view Brown’s landscapes, including those not normally open to the public, from a very different perspective.”

Bird's Eye View of Brown Landscapes

A new online map created by Historic England, a partner of the Capability Brown Festival, is launched today. It shows the principal Capability Brown landscapes in England and allows you to explore the sites from a bird’s eye view, via new aerial photography. It also connects them to the List, showing which areas and buildings are protected.

Historic England is also publishing a new book on the famed landscape designer, written by leading Capability Brown authority, John Phibbs. Place-making: The art of Capability Brown will reveal the thinking behind Brown’s genius and how he shaped our idea of the English designed landscape. Brown dominated his profession and was prolific - his work is everywhere - so naturalistic was his approach that many of the parks affected by his design are often mistaken for landscapes untouched by the hand of man. Historic England has joined forces with crowd-funding publisher Unbound to produce this celebration of Brown’s work. There is still time to pledge your support before the book is due to be published in November 2016.

Coloured map

Newly Listed Landscapes in Surrey and Buckinghamshire

New to the National Heritage List for England - known as the List - is Stoke Place in Buckinghamshire, an amazing survivor on the outskirts of Slough and an important example of a Brown pleasure ground, designed during the height of his career in the mid-1760s. Stoke Place is one of a cluster of three Brown sites in the area, along with Stoke Park and Langley Park which are already on the List. Providing the setting for the Grade II listed house the large lake is the most noticeable trademark Capability Brown feature, and was the centrepiece of the pleasure grounds. The designer revolutionised garden design by removing formal planting in favour of an idealised ‘natural’ landscape. Stoke Place was developed and extended in the early nineteenth century.

Another new addition to the List is Peper Harow Park near Godalming, Surrey which was landscaped by Brown in the 1760s to emphasise the grandeur of the near-contemporary Grade I listed Peper Harow House designed by eminent architect Sir William Chambers.

Today, Peper Harow Park still largely reflects the original design Brown intended and several trees survive from Brown’s time, which are now over 250 years old. It is likely that Brown was responsible for ‘sculpting’ the river Wey here so as to enhance the natural topography and enhance the principal view from the house. The park is also home to a cricket pitch which held one of the first ever recorded cricket games in 1727.

New addition to the List, Peper Harow, Surrey. Now listed at Grade II © Historic England
New addition to the List, Peper Harow, Surrey. Now listed at Grade II © Historic England

But know that more than Genius slumbers here...

Wilderness House at Hampton Court Palace has been upgraded to Grade II* to reflect its importance as the home of Capability Brown during his time as Master Gardener to George III. Wilderness House dates back to around 1700 and is largely unchanged within - a rare survival. Brown is credited with planting the Great Vine at Hampton Court in 1768, the largest grape vine in the world.

The Wotton Underwood landscape in Buckinghamshire has been upgraded to Grade I to celebrate it as an outstanding example of an eighteenth-century country house landscape. Following recent research and analysis by The Gardens Trust our understanding of this important landscape has increased and is helping to inform restoration work. The landscape was shaped by a number of high-profile designers of the day, including Capability Brown. Home to the separately listed Grade I house the grounds are full of man-made picturesque details including a large lake, islands, bridges, a rotunda, pavilion and grotto.

Brown’s final resting place is the churchyard of Grade I listed St Peter and St Paul, Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire where he was buried in February 1783. The exceptional medieval church has been re-listed to recognise its connection to the great designer who became Lord of the Manor of Fenstanton when he acquired the Manor house from the Earl of Northampton, a mark of his worldly success. “But know that more than Genius slumbers here” reads a memorial inside the church; one line of an epitaph written by the poet, the Rev William Mason.

The walled garden at Charlton Park, Wiltshire was first listed in 1951. Since then further research has shown that it is highly likely to be a design by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who visited Charlton Park in 1786 and proposed a new walled garden. The List entry has been amended to reflect this.

Other sites re-listed to celebrate Capability Brown’s national importance include:

Hewell Grange, Worcestershire
Temple Newsam, Leeds
Appuldurcombe, Isle of Wight

Home of Capability Brown, Wilderness House at Hampton Court Palace, Upgraded to Grade II* © Historic England
Home of Capability Brown, Wilderness House at Hampton Court Palace, Upgraded to Grade II* © Historic England
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