Honouring 'Capability' Brown

We explore some of the many Partner Gardens set within inspiring 'Capability' Brown landscapes

'Capability' Brown. Image: Harewood House Trust2016 marked 300 years since the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716 – 1783), whose designs changed the face of 18th century England, and shaped our perceptions of the quintessential English landscape. 

Brown worked or advised at 250 sites across England and Wales, covering a staggering half-a-million acres of land. Once derided as a ‘cabbage planter’ by early critics, Brown was later lauded as a poet and artist, and even dubbed ‘Lady Nature’s second husband’. 

Explore some 'Capability' Brown gems


Syon Park in mist. Image: Simon Hadleigh-SparksSyon Park in Middlesex was one of ‘Capability’ Brown’s first major commissions and he was involved with the estate for a period of almost 20 years. Enjoy a stroll to see how formal gardens, farmland, streams and marshland were steadily transformed into the well-preserved Brown landscape still visible today. 
More about Syon Park

Scampston Hall aerial viewBrown was asked to draw up plans for the landscape at Scampston in North Yorkshire in 1772; these were implemented in 1782. Despite the challenges of the flat site, his design was hailed a success: 'The difficulty of rendering so dead and untractable a plain, beautiful, has been here gradually surmounted.' Scampston marked Brown's tercentenary with a geocaching project encouraging people to get out and explore the landscape, especially its trees and lakes.
More about Scampston Hall

View to Belvoir Castle

Brown designed the 2,300-acre landscape garden at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire in 1780. The plans were thought lost for generations until the archivist found them by chance in 2008, prompting a massive restoration programme completed at the end of 2015. Today, the landscape is faithful to Brown's plan with lakes, mature park and newly planted Pleasure Grounds all sitting naturally within the estate's striking topography.
More about Belvoir Castle


The Trentham Gardens. Image: Emma Fox
At The Trentham Estate near Stoke-on-Trent, the garden team continue to reveal Brown's work, enhancing it with vast contemporary planting schemes that are sympathetic to the historic landscape. 'We have felled thousands of trees, planted thousands of trees, revealed parkland, introduced cattle, and revealed lost vistas and connections between park, lake and woodland,' says Head of Garden and Estate, Michael Walker.
More about The Trentham Estate

Blenheim Palace, OxonBrown worked at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire for 11 years, transforming the 2,000 acres with a magnificent Great Lake, ha-has and thousands of mature trees, which Brown's workmen installed using special tree moving machines. The estate is an excellent place to appreciate the best of Brown's work and his signature motifs. 
More about Blenheim Palace

Watercolour of Sheffield Park. Courtesy John Hammond / National Trust
When commissioned to lay out Sheffield Park Garden in East Sussex, Brown designed two large lakes, planted belts and clumps of trees and created informal paths through the oak woods. ‘By creating the two lakes, which still form the centrepiece of the garden today, Brown created magnificent views that flow from the mansion through to rolling natural countryside,’ says Head Gardener Andy Jesson. Rather than sweeping aside Brown’s design, subsequent owners complemented it with extensive collections of trees and shrubs to give us the spectacular multi-layered garden visitors can enjoy today. 
More about Sheffield Park Garden

View of Bowood
In the 1760s, Brown was commissioned by the first Marquess of Lansdowne to landscape the 809ha (2,000 acres) park at Bowood House in Wiltshire. The ground outside the house was levelled so that it swept down to the sinuous lake, created from the damming of two streams. Brown's designs set the house naturally within its landscape, using belts of trees to encircle the park. Note: Bowood will return to the RHS Partner Garden scheme in 2018.
More about Bowood House

RHS Membership

I enjoy a refreshing walk… my membership gives me free family days out as often as I like.

Mrs Giddings, RHS member

Join the RHS

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.