Keys to the Past


Brown, Lancelot

Brown was a landscape gardener in its broadest sense - his work was on the scale of parks. He was born at Kirkharle, Northumberland, the fifth child of six. Little is known of his parents - and indeed his parentage and ancestry has been questioned based on events in his life. He attended a local school till the age of 16 and then worked for the wealthy Lord of the Manor Sir William Lorraine as a gardener. From there he worked at the famous Stowe, Buckinghamshire, gardens in the south of England. Brown became a gardener and architect for many famous gardens and wealthy clients. His style of architecture was Palladian, such as Croome Court, Worcestershire, for the 6th Earl of Coventry. Such architectural at Croome also involved the creation of a grotto. He chose not to use red bricks in his buildings - comparing them to measles or a fever.

It is for his gardening that his is best known. His style included lakes and winding rivers (often newly constructed for the purpose), tree clumps of different species to add year round interest, undulating lawns and screening areas by trees. A commentator on his work at Blenheim Palace, (see Vanbrugh, John), wrote every change of a few paces furnishes a new scene. He worked with the architect James Paine at Chatsworth, Derbyshire - though he received brickbats and praise for his work throughout Britain - some found the expanse of green repetitive. This included Northumberland - for the Wallington estate he designed the Rothley Lakes, (fine newly made lakes'surrounded by young plantations, which is noble water according to Arthur Young in 1770), and at Alnwick. Brown was appointed a Royal Gardener in 1762AD.

Brown was also interested in preserving features of interest in the landscape - though this did not apply to former gardens. At Roche Abbey, Yorkshire, he preserved the central portion of a Cistercian monastery that had been founded from Newminister, Northumberland. However, only the central portion was preserved as part of the gardens - the rest was covered up. When Brown died in London 1783AD opinion was divided to his work; Horace Walpole wrote Lady Nature's second husband is dead!, whilst King George III is said to have said to a gardener Brown is dead! Now Millicent you and I can do here what we please!. He was nicknamed 'Capability' Brown because he saw the 'capabilities' of the land for improvement.

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