Prior to the reign of George I, the stately homes of England had featured formal gardens in the European style. But with the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the Georgian era began and there was a thirst for change. A new style of landscaping was sought in order to distinguish England’s great gardens and it was William Kent who pioneered the New English Style which offered a more naturalistic approach.
Kent drew on the Utopian ideal of the mythical Arcadia where inhabitants led peaceful lives in harmony with nature. He utilised the natural features of the landscape and included garden buildings in the classical style. His creations proved popular with the nobility as the classical elements appealed to their intellects and the gardens were cost effective to maintain.
William Kent worked on the garden which would later become Kew and designed the fabulous gardens at Chiswick and Stowe. It was during his time at Stowe that a young Lancelot Brown began working under him. Lancelot “Capability” Brown would become England’s most celebrated landscaper.
Awarded his first landscape commission at the age of 23, Capability Brown soon found himself working for Sir Richard Grenville, Lord Cobham, at Stowe. He worked under William Kent for a period but after just one year was appointed Head Gardener. Lord Cobham permitted him to undertake private commissions in addition to his work at Stowe. His gardens, which were in the New English Style, impressed the nobility and his services became greatly sought after. Brown was soon a rich man and following his appointment as Master Gardener at Hampton Court Palace, he was able to purchase his own estate at Fenstanton.
Brown went on to design over 170 gardens at the finest estates in the land including Longleat House, Warwick Castle, Blenheim Palace and Highclere Castle. He was in the habit of explaining to his wealthy clients that their estates had the capability for improvement, hence the moniker by which he is still best known.
Capability Brown’s approach was minimalist and he moved away from the inclusion of structures in the classical style. The buildings which had provided focal points in earlier gardens were replaced by more natural devices including water features and trees.
The gardens were visually stunning but also satisfied the practical needs of the landowners. Trees could be harvested to generate income and leisure pursuits, including shooting, were catered for. Brown also took care to design gardens which provided sweeping views from carriages as visitors arrived at the estates.
Capability Brown was an artistic genius who painted stunning canvases onto the English landscape. Many of his finest creations can still be visited and never fail to impress. He showcased the natural beauty of the countryside rather than confining it with formal features. Tastes have changed but his work has never been surpassed.
Landscape Gardens Stamp Issue 16 August 2016
This year marks the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown’s birth. In celebration of his work, Royal Mail is issuing 8 stamps showcasing 8 examples of Brown’s incredible gardens.
2nd Class – The Duke of Marlborough enticed Brown to Oxfordshire in 1763, with the promise that he should begin work at Blenheim Palace immediately
2nd Class – For his efforts at Longleat in Wiltshire, Brown was paid over £6,100 between1757 and 1762 by Lord Weymouth.
1st Class Brown’s 1768 arrival at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, sparked John Peyto Verney’s ambitious changes to both the house and landscape.
1st Class Henry Herbert, later 1st Earl of Carnarvon, summoned Brown to Highclere Castleshortly after he inherited the Berkshire estate in 1769.
£1.05 Around 1770, Brown began work at the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland’s northern estate, Alnwick Castle, after having previously worked for them at Syon.
£1.05 In 1780, Brown supplied a landscape plan for Thomas Harley at Berrington Hall,Herefordshire, working there in perfect partnership with his son-in-law.
£1.33 Stowe, the Buckinghamshire kingdom belonging to the formidable Viscount Cobham, was where Brown cut his horticultural teeth.
£1.33 Brown was first consulted regarding Croome Park in Worcestershire in 1751,when George William Coventry inherited the earldom.
The issue also features a first day cover, a presentation pack and stamp cards.