300 YEARS OF CAPABILITY BROWN IN SUFFOLK
2016 marks the Year of the English Garden: a celebration of rose bushes, hedgerows, apple trees, lush grass and all things horticultural. It also marks 300 years since the birth of ‘England’s greatest gardener,’ Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Of Capability Brown’s 170 parks and gardens, many still survive today – a handful of them in Suffolk.
Capability Brown designed sections of the grounds at Euston Hall in The Brecks
Photo (c) Ashley Dace
Photo (c) Ashley Dace
Capability Brown was born in Northumberland in 1716, and at age 25 went on to work at Stowe House under William Kent, one of the acclaimed gardeners of the day, and a founder of the new style of English landscape garden. A year later Brown was appointed Head Gardener at Stowe, earning just £3,500 a year in today’s money. While at Stowe he was permitted to design gardens for the aristocratic friends of Lord Cobham, the owner of the house. Brown’s new English style made him highly sought after among the landed gentry, and by the 1760s he was earning the equivalent of £740,000 a year designing some of the most famous gardens in the country.
Among them were the gardens at Heveningham Hall, a palatial Georgian estate near Framlingham, Suffolk. Built in its present form between 1778 and 1780, Heveningham Hall would have been one of the last estates Capability Brown designed gardens for before his death in 1783. Few of his plans were implemented at the time, but more than two centuries later, work began to restore Heveningham Hall’s gardens and fulfill Brown’s original plans, including the creation of a chain of lakes stemming from the River Blyth. You can explore and learn about the gardens at Heveningham Hall during a study day on July 15th, however if you’d prefer to soak up the atmosphere for a little longer, why not book a stay at the luxurious Wilderness Reserve, which surrounds the estate?
The gardens at Heveningham Hall have been restored to Capability Brown's original designs
Photo (c) Adrian S Pye
Brown was also commissioned to design gardens and waterways for the 3rd Duke of Grafton, the then Prime Minister, at Euston Hall near Elveden, Suffolk. Between 1769 and 1783, Capability Brown was consulted on numerous occasions, his influence being felt most in the small lakes and rivulets that created an idyllic waterscape within the grounds. In 2012 these lakes, sluices and weirs were restored, and while the rest of Euston Hall is under restoration until 2017, the gardens and park will be open between the 15th and 19th August, along with an exhibition about the work of their three main architects: Capability Brown, John Evelyn and William Kent.
Capability Brown designed a series of waterways at Euston Hall
Aside from Redgrave Park, a site now sadly converted to arable farmland, Capability Brown’s touch can be felt at one other site in Suffolk: Ickworth House. This extraordinary Georgian Italianate palace and gardens stands in the village of Horringer near Bury St Edmunds, and when first built was unlike anything that had been seen before; the house, with its grand rotunda, was described by some as a ‘stupendous monument of folly.’ It’s unclear how much involvement Brown had at Ickworth Hall, although history tells that he did visit, and was paid the sum of around £700. You can discover more about Capability Brown’s connections with Ickworth Hall on the 7th September, with a walk around the estate.
Capability Brown was paid £700 for his mysterious work at Ickworth House