Nature Perfected – Lancelot “Capability” Brown

In 1760 he began working at Chatsworth for the 4th Duke of Devonshire. There was no need to create an artificial ‘river’, so he merely widened and altered the course of the River Derwent instead. Ponds and parterres were converted to rolling lawns, valleys sculpted and, as he often did, large trees transplanted alongside smaller specimens for instant impact.

One of the most magnificent examples of his work is at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, with two lakes and a great cascade at its western perimeter. Such projects meant employing huge numbers of workers to shift thousands of tons of soil by hand.

One of Brown’s last commissions, from the 4th Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle, arrived in 1780, just before he died. The plans were never fully implemented and were recently rediscovered; the landscape is now being transformed by the current Duchess of Rutland and her team. Brown collapsed and died suddenly from a seizure on 6 February 1783, after an evening dining hosted by Lord Coventry, owner of Croome Court. He was buried in Fenstanton where he was Lord of the Manor.

By the time he died, his ideas were so influential that some

4,000 gardens had been landscaped according to his

principles. And his style influenced the design of parks and

gardens from Europe to Russia. His memorial in Fenstanton

church sums up the life of the astonishing Mr Brown, declaring:

“More than genius slumbers here.”

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