Nature Perfected – Lancelot “Capability” Brown

Honest Lancelot

Brown’s personal conduct added to his reputation. He was business like, industrious and honest. He once even returned an extra payment from a client, saying the sum agreed had been sufficient. Another client found him “an agreeable, pleasant companion, as well as a great genius in his profession”. He was an entertaining dinner guest and became respected and well connected, becoming friends with William Pitt, George III and actor David Garrick.

Brown soon became fashionable and the ‘must-have’ landscape improver and place-maker to the aristocracy. His client list included dukes and duchesses, six prime ministers and half of the House of Lords.

Such were Brown’s skills that his commissions varied. Some clients wanted him to landscape their whole estate or design or make improvements to their house; others asked him to work his magic over just part of the grounds. In 1758, Jemima, Marchioness de Grey, invited him to display his talents at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire.

Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

As the de Greys had employed some of the greatest names in British landscape design, including William Chambers and Nicholas Hawksmoor, Brown’s contribution was confined to the perimeter, where he created a serpentine lake. Brown had so many projects running concurrently that by the end of the 1750s he had more than 20 foremen on his books.

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