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Lancelot 'Capability' Brown

a biography from the Garden and Landscape Guide

Born - Died : 1716 - 1783

Lancelot Brown is the most famous English landscape designer. Lancelot Brown was born in Northumberland and served an apprenticeship with Sir William Lorraine. Brown moved to Buckinghamshire in 1739 and was employed by Lord Cobham at Stowe in 1741. This gave Lancelot Brown the opportunity of working with William Kent and John Vanbrugh. He later practiced as an architect in his own right. On some occasions Lancelot Brown designed both the house and its park. In 1764 Lancelot Brown was appointed Master Gardener at Hampton Court. His practice expanded rapidly and he was often away on coach tours. Many examples of his work are open to the public. Many others are well maintained as golf courses. Lancelot Brown's nickname 'Capability' came from his fondness for speaking about a country estate having a great 'capability' for improvement. Lancelot Brown's popularity reached a peak at the time of his death. It then fell into decline, as explained in our online history of English Garden Design since 1650. Lancelot Brown's reputation reached its nadir in the 1880s. It then began to recover and by 1980 he was being recognised as a genius of English garden design. Lancelot Brown described himself as a 'place-maker', not a 'landscape gardener'. It was the nineteenth century which saw 'landscape gardening' become a trade name. Two of Lancelot Brown's letters on garden design are on the CD.

Gardens designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown