Landscape Designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown


The magnificent and marvelous world of architecture provides mankind with vividness and versatile images of beautiful implementation of creative thought. In this respect, the works of many outstanding architects did not fall into oblivion. Furthermore, the research on the most eminent architects in buildings and landscape of Great Britain during its long history cannot go without such persons as William Kent, John Vanbrugh Lancelot Brown, John Ruskin, etc. Lancelot Brown (1716 – 1783), known as “Capability” Brown, can be called the founder of landscape coloring in contemporary England. His works impress a viewer with the ability to show the ground magnificence potted with picturesque and rather proportional trees and bushes. Here the lanes and flowerbeds were also admitted by Brown in his works. Today this landscape designer and architect of sceneries are still remembered due to a huge heritage which he left after himself. The research is dedicated to the survey on five of his works. These are Stowe Landscape Garden, Petworth House, Broadlands, Blenheim Palace, and Burghley House. All of them recollect the details of a mature and sophisticated approach of Brown. They also provide a particular style, known as Brownian.

Historical Evaluation

First of all, it is necessary to note that in the eighteenth century the architecture in Great Britain and its colonies was at a peak. The epoch of Enlightenment influenced the feeling of color and shape in art and its plane and pattern character is a straightforward implementation of lines and forms. In previous times the architectonic shape of the sceneries in noble objects, such as parks valleys, gardens, was pointed out with massive terraces and “knot gardens” being popular for the whole of England (Carr 14). In this situation, there should be a change in the cultural and natural peculiarities of England.

Lancelot Brown in young age was a pupil to the outstanding at the time landscape architects, like William Kent and John Vanbrugh (Carr 13). His great concernment about the so-called feeling of beauty was predetermined with a vogue, but not so colorful representation of facades, exteriors, parks with different objects, such as fountains, lakes, bushy roads, etc. Brown’s mastership drew to a head when he began implementing his own vision on details and innovations in a fashionable. He followed the idea mentioned later by John Ruskin, that architecture should behave and educate people. Though, driven by such fascinating ideas which were inherited, strange as it may seem, from his tutor, William Kent, he was apt to promote his own style in landscape architecture. Brown was constantly speaking about the capability of a country estate, and this served as a background for his nickname (Carr 15).

Lancelot Brown was also outlined in the historical cut, as the follower of the particular esthetic framework of Romanticism (Moffett et al 416). For some long period, Brown was not able to provide his mastership for noblest clients originating from rich and royal layers of the society. The reason was that he worked as a gardener for well-known William Kent. His aesthetic manner was accomplished with Palladian tradition being one of the impressive at that time and which is so until now (Moffett et al 416). However, being expressly a minor person for the implementation of this tradition Brown succeeded further in clearer, in spite of his contemporaries, outlook on the design of a landscape considered initially with the client. Thus, the history of architecture knows today many works by Brown, which can be widely observed even today. Though, such a great manifestation of talent and aesthetical approach cannot turn into ashes.

Stowe Landscape Gardens

Stowe Landscape Gardens is the place which Brown admitted, as the beginning of his creative work and artistic approach. The author used the wholeness of his splendor in this place and gave it a breathtaking coloring implemented in inimitable in its beautiful shape. There are no attempts to use exotic plants or details in Stowe Gardens. The place consists of two main constituents, namely: the Parkland and the Stowe House.

The Parkland

The Parkland is the place which is outlined with recently restored Deer Park with its picturesque oaks, maples, and lindens (About Britain para. 4). Here one can simply walk and enjoy the change of seasons which is greatly represented in the sceneries of the park. One can visit this place and restore in mind the feelings and desires of Brown at once. It is an unbelievable place where feeling for proportion and aesthetical correctness is reflected on trees, grass-plots, several buildings of a particular kind, lakes and air which is full of ineffable satisfaction of life within nature.

The Stowe House is the place that adores a visitor with a spontaneous appearance of something related to a man within the truly natural landscape. This idea was intentionally implemented by the author due to his Romantic belonging and a belief in the concept of a “natural man”, which was widely spread in the era of Enlightenment. In fact, it is Stowe Public School (About Britain para. 5).

Everything here is rather similar to the natural contour of English landscapes. Moreover, the architect at the time when he created this masterpiece of “natural” architecture was highly impressed by the world’s changes for the better (Carr 20). It is very interesting also to notice the fact that a biographer of Brown, Roger Turner, looking at the brilliance of Stowe Gardens for the first time highlighted the following thought: “None of Britain’s many achievements in the visual arts is so original as the landscape garden” (Cited in Lorzing 119).

Petworth House

Petworth House is eminent for its splendid similarity with multiple palaces for the royal destinations. It is a sign for a grand and fascinating brightness of the natural landscape with the place of peoples’ living. This place fulfills a visitor with an unknown before the supremacy of talent incorporated in the building and landscape architecture. The home of Lord and Lady Egremont provides a wealthy outlook on everything being apparent here: in the house and over a landscape. Thus, two main parts here, like in Stowe Gardens, are the parking area and the spectacular house maintained in the old marvelous tradition. The lake which is observed from the front side of the Petworth makes it more shaped with ‘Capability’ Brown’s peculiar style. The wholeness of the Brownian style is really greatly seen in the example of Petworth House. It is so because here all details concerned with the author are represented, namely: “grass meadows in front of the mansion, serpentine lakes, and follies, encircling carriage drives, belts and circular clumps of trees” (Topp para. 4). This is why the mansion at Petworth can be widely observed by visitors and researchers of Brownian tints in landscape architecture. This place also correlates with the motives of the author to make more “capabilities” possible for this very place, because the geographical location of it gives an opportunity to express one’s emotions to nature as it is.



A picturesque and spectacular background of Broadlands again repeats the unique manner of ‘Capability’ Brown. This place performs a manifestation of style and originality as of the author’s personal outlook on how landscape design should have been implemented. The idea of the landscape style culminates here in its “carefully stylized version” (Lorzing 119). It is true owing to the mansion’s sceneries patterned with meadows and serpentines everywhere. Trees are hardly potted in the whole area of the place, but still they’re trendy at the time presence is included. Brown always wanted to make out what a client wanted from him about the landscape, and then he related someone’s vision into his stylish frame.

The elegant house

The elegant house maintained in the Palladian tradition with vogue tendency of mid-Georgian beauty is rather beautiful when looking at it from the side of the surrounding landscape splendor (About Britain para. 1). Brown was impressed by the place where the house stands and tried to relate his findings when designing landscape contour to the Test River being extremely next to Broadlands. A lovely landscaped setting by ‘Capability’ Brown reminds also the relevance of his artistic talent not solely in one of the major parts of the area, but in the whole space being in front and beside the house. Lord Palmerston in 1736 was highly fascinated with Broadlands and with a sigh of impression and deep adornment he wrote: “This place all together pleases me above any place I know” (About Britain para. 2).

To say more, this place was one of the loveliest and visited by the intellectuals Romantic parks. It stimulated many poets to find their Muse, and it also provided just a silent and harmonically well time spent within the tandem of an artist and nature, meaning Brown and his work. The architect liked his work too much, and could not imagine life without being involved in the work: “Working throughout the length and breadth of the nation, he transformed large areas of the unkempt countryside into the kind of lush parkland for which England has become renowned” (Moffett et al 417).

Blenheim Palace

The creativity and uniqueness of this work by Brown contribute to the National Trust a peculiar combination of Baroque-type building and splendid meadows patterned with conifers. It is considered to be the most famous and most beautiful work by the author among connoisseurs. This is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and the place where he lived for a long time. Moreover, the majesty of it contemplates the history of its foundation at the very beginning of the eighteenth century. John Vanbrugh and his collaborators designed the building as it is, but he was altered by Brown:

John Vanbrugh

The original plans by Vanbrugh and the 1st Duke were altered by Capability Brown in the 1760s, who landscaped the Park, dug the 150-acre lake, built the cascades and demolished many of the formal French gardens. This was continued by the French landscape architect Achille Duchene and succeeding generations of the family have taken a keen interest in their evolvement (AboutBritain para. 10).

The landscape part of the place is shaped and developed with Brown’s particular patterns and implementation of his personal understanding of how a Romantic park should look like. He tried to follow the reasoning of his tutor in making Palladian tradition vivid and inscribed in the whole outlook on the exterior part of the mansion and without primordial glimpses at its interior constituent. The park was several times restored. The Secret Garden is outstanding for its ability to promote a state of total calm to a visitor due to multiple mature trees and plants being here and there. The loss of noise and men’s talk is damped down by the whisper of leaves in warm seasons. The garden is also attractive due to a lot of flowerbeds in it with numerous daffodils and bluebells along with twigs of trees in bloom and banks being grassy (About Britain para. 12).

It is an amazing demonstration of the paramount vision of Brown concerned with making more capabilities for the landscape in its detailed analysis. This thought provides a mere extent of classification by the author’s main constituents which should decorate a place where people live. In Brown’s case, suchlike decoration promoted in Blenheim Palace was not solely a piece of his work, it is the manifestation of his mature and original art which then became a “credit card” for understanding the English landscapes in the world.

An alleged divine design was embodied in the author of this place. From the very beginning, Brown seemed to be aware of the ideal plan for the mansion’s landscape: “This plan included the creation of a serpentine lake and an encircling drive, the planting of tree clusters that still make a pleasing dappled pattern in the landscape, and intermittent views of the building” (Moffett et al 417). All in all, this place is considered with the direct work of eminent masters in architecture and design. Moreover, here lived people-legends. Thus, there is a particular assumption that a place inspired by ‘Capability’ Brown unintentionally made the constant visitors in it magnificent in life. Churchill is a great example of it.

Burghley House

Cultural attitudes maintained in this work by Brown straightforwardly reflect the realities of the royal tradition to have majesty in everything. Nature is the greatest source from which that time philosophers took ideas. In this respect, the era of Enlightenment and the Natural Law of Hobbes provided several impressions on ‘Capability’ Brown when he was allowed to construct a clear and rational design of landscape around such marvelous palace.

Burghley House

It is seen that the main role was given to meadows in front of the main building. It is underlined with a peculiar feeling of grace and brilliance which was perceived by Brown before the start of the work. Personal professionalism and technological approach of the architect in constructing the landscape of countryside go with the maturity of cultural and philosophical preferences of the society. It is especially reflected in the highest strata of it. However, Burghley House was built in the 16th century for Sir William Cecil with honors for his help from the side of Queen Elizabeth (About Britain para. 9). Thus, its historical framework is far longer. It was widely known after the touch of the master in landscape design, i.e. Lancelot Brown.

Looking back through the vistas of the past, one admits a colorful history of English monarchs and their prevalence of everything magnificent and new in philosophy and art. In fact, art was a symbol of the most concerned and educated people at all times. The gardens constructed by Brown are divided today into the Surprise and Sculpture Gardens where the author saw the implementation of Romantic motives in spiral lakes and deer park for making the concept of the “natural man” more obvious and, though, closer to the attendants of the mansion at that time.

Sociological findings are illustrated in the sharpness of major features in the gardens at Burghley. This is why the educational and fully philosophical approaches are maintained. Owing to the ideas of enlightenment and particular features of it, such as prescriptions for the beauty of forms and extravagance of the destination, the reliability of Brown’s manner and vividness as well as his originality has similarities with the trendy flow of culture and art. In fact, this splendid place was used by many painters, as the optimal combination of nature. Plain airs were apparent at the time; they are popular within modern painters till now. It is obvious and rather logical that such beauty should be noticed by an artistic look. ‘Capability’ Brown with a concerned aptness urged for the entire nature of art implemented in landscaped observation attempted to put people into the highest and versatile spheres of artistic thought. On the example of Burghley House the ideas of Romanticism, natural origin of a man, natural law, educational direction of architecture are implied into the complex of images seen from different foreshortenings.


To sum up, the research provided in the paper shows a particular manner and style of implementation by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown on the examples of five of his most famous works. It is necessary to point out that the artistic talent of this designer flourished in the dimension of landscape architecture. His inevitable hand is felt and seen in every work. Stowe Gardens, Petworth House, Broadlands, Blenheim Palace, Burghley House and many others work by the architect still represent the spirit of real England which was greatly felt by ‘Capability’ Brown. It was accompanied by the philosophical background of the trend in literature, known as Romanticism. Its peculiarities are implemented in the concept of Romantic Parks in the late eighteenth century. Moreover, ordinary observers of the creations by Brown admitted the fact that he sought for the ultimate extent of man-nature relations. The philosophical background by J. J. Russo, in particular, made impacts on the architect with shapes of a positive and responsible attitude toward nature and the real place of a man in it. The artistic talent of Brown increased with his predominant thought that every scenery or landscape in the countryside has a lot of “capabilities” for further decoration. This standpoint correlated the whole activity of the designer into the right direction of creativity and splendor. Thus, 32 years of perpetual work over the idea of renovations and improvements possible in the countryside mansions were spent by Lancelot Brown, not in vain. Furthermore, it still incorporates the main values and philosophical coloring of the artistic thought of the time when the master lived.

Works cited

About Britain. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Web.

Carr, Ethan. Wilderness by Design: Landscape Architecture and the National Park Service. Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska Press, 1999.

Lörzing, Han. The nature of landscape: a personal quest. London: 010 Publishers, 2001.

Moffett, Marian, Fazio, Michael W. and Wodehouse, Lawrence. A world history of architecture. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003.

Topp, Sarah. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716 – 1783. Great Garden Designers, 2009. Web.

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