“They set great store by their gardeins,” Sir Thomas More

Nonsuch Palace... by Joris Hoefnagel, 1572

Nonsuch Palace, Joris Hoefnagel, 1572

The name which stands out most conspicuously in connection
with landscape-gardening is that of Lancelot Brown. From his
habit of saying of any place he was asked to improve, or lay out
afresh, that it ” had great capabilities,” he became known by
the name of  “Capability Brown.”

He was born in Northumberland in 1715, and began as a
kitchen-gardener. It was not until he planned and executed
a lake for the Duke of Grafton  that he attempted any designing.
This brought him into notice and he was appointed
Royal Gardener at Hampton Court.

Soon he became the fashion, and was consulted by nearly everyone in England who had a garden of any consideration.
He laid out or altered in some way or the other half the gardens
in the country.

Had Brown confined himself to creating new landscapes
and gardens, posterity could not have borne such a
grudge against him. As it is, in studying the designs he carried
out, it is difficult to look with an unprejudiced eye at his work,
for before the results he produced can be admired,
one is filled with regret for the beauties he swept away.

Sir Uvedale Price described his pleasure on approaching
” a venerable castle-like mansion built in the beginning of the
fifteenth century,” through an avenue of fine old trees.
” I was much hurt,” he continues, ” to learn from the master of the
place, that I might take my leave of the avenue and its romantic
effects, for that its death-warrant was signed.”

Men had now begun to find out Brown’s mistakes,
and reflect on his destruction of old places and historical relics.

A History of Gardening in England
Alicia Amherst, 1895


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