Gardens, Landscape History, London

Year of the English Garden

May 21, 2016
Blenheim Palace-Park and gardens-South Lawn-Aerial (2). Credit Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace – Park and Gardens – South Lawn Aerial: Credit Blenheim Palace

2016, the tercentenary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s birth, has been declared the year of the English Garden. A nationwide festival, celebrating Brown’s legacy, is underway with lectures, walking, cycling and garden tours, exhibitions and conferences offered throughout the year.

DEW47150 Portrait of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, c.1770-75; by Cosway, Richard (1742-1821); oil on canvas; 53x42.5 cm; Private Collection; English, out of copyright

© Portrait of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, c.1770-75, Richard Cosway (1742-1821)/Private Collection/Bridgeman Images.

Described as the ‘Shakespeare of gardening,’ Brown is credited with transforming England’s aristocratic gardens from the formality of the Baroque period into the picturesque landscapes identified with England today; a combination of sweeping lawns, naturalistic plantings and endless views reflected in serpentine rivers and flowing lakes.

Brown worked on an immense scale designing gardens, parklands woodlands and carriage drives. Of the more than 250 landscapes attributed to Brown 150 retain their integrity today, including 42 within Greater London. Within Brown’s portfolio of projects are Richmond Gardens/Kew, Blenheim Palace, Highclere Castle (the setting of Downton Abbey) Longleat, Stowe and Hampton Court Palace where Brown was named the King’s Master Gardener in 1764.

Hampton Court. Credit Historic Royal Palaces.

Hampton Court: Credit Historic Royal Palaces

Having declared 2016 the Year of the Royal Garden, Hampton Court Palace will, until September 4th, display a rare and never before seen collection of watercolor paintings and drawings once owned by the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia detailing views of the palace, park and gardens during Brown’s tenure. June 6th through 8th Hampton Court Palace will host the garden history and heritage conference, Capability Brown Royal Gardener – the man and his business: Past, Present and Future.


The Great Fountain Garden: Hampton Court Palace

A four day Tercentenary Conference sponsored by the Cambridgeshire Gardens Trust and The Gardens Trust will be held at Robinson College, Cambridge from August 5th through the 7th while the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes, Garden History Society and National Trust will host the international conference, Capability Brown: Perception and Response in a Global Context at the University of Bath from September 9th through the 11th.

The historic Longleat House set in parkland landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century.

The historic Longleat House set in parkland landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century: Credit Visit England & Longleat House

As part of the National Garden Scheme, which since its inception has donated more than £45 million to its beneficiary charities, 3,800 gardens throughout the country will be open to paying visitors until late October. The National Garden Scheme has partnered with the Capability Brown Festival to offer access to Brown landscapes, including some that are otherwise inaccessible.

The East Lake Pavilion at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. Stowe is an 18th century landscaped garden, and includes more than 40 historic temples and monuments.

The East Lake Pavilion at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. Stowe is an 18th century landscaped garden, and includes more than 40 historic temples and monuments: Credit NT Images & Andrew Butler

Other events promoting the English garden include London Parks and Gardens Trust Open Squares Garden Weekend on the 18th and 19th of June. 200 private gardens across 27 London boroughs will be open to the public including community gardens and private squares.

If you go be sure to visit the following websites where you can track interactive maps of parks and gardens and the dates when they are open to the public.

Festival Logo

Capability Brown Festival:

National Garden Scheme:

London Parks and Garden’s Trust:

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No Comments

  • Reply Jerry Watkins June 8, 2016 at 1:38 am

    Absolutely amazing. I visited Cambridge and many other areas in the UK when I was in high school. It was like nothing I have ever seen in the USA. I imagine that the landscaping their probably sparked the passion that got me into landscaping in the first place. I am happy to have stumbled across your post.

    • Reply Patrice Todisco June 8, 2016 at 11:14 am

      Thanks Jerry, you should connect to the sites mentioned in the post to learn more about Capability Brown and the celebration.

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