Capability Brown 1715-1783 & Humphry Repton 1752-1818
Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1715-1783) is noted as both a gardener and architect. His gardens quickly became highly prestigious and fashionable. Brown's habit of discussing the 'capabilities of improvement' of a property earned him the nick name he's best known by. Like Humphry Repton, he rejected the formal geometric style of gardening for a more natural approach. The aristocracy sought a private and peaceful "Arcadian" world. In and age without planning regulations anything was possible. He is credited with designing more than a hundred landscaped parks and his client list includes five Prime Ministers and more than a dozen dukes.
Brown was involved in the design of Brightling Park when Rose Fuller lived there in 1763. It is unclear how many of his suggestions were implemented at the time. Brown's son Lancelot married Jack Fuller's sisterFrances Fuller.
One of the most magnificent unspoilt examples of Brown's genius is Petworth Park, Sussex. Designed in the 1750s, this 700 acre park is home to the largest and oldest herd of fallow deer in England. George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, was a great patron of the arts and J.M.W.Turner had a studio at Petworth House for several years.
The impressive gardens of Sheffield Park, Sussex are the legacy of both Brown and Repton. This internationally renowned example of landscape architecture is noted for its stunning lakes, cascades and waterfalls. John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield was in the Sussex Yeomanry Cavalry with Jack Fuller.
" In 1774-5 [Lord Sheffield] had [historian Edward] Gibbon track down the equally busy and fashionable 'Capability' Brown, who sent over one of his assistants, a Mr Spyrers the following year. Frustratingly little evidence survives of what Brown actually did at Sheffield Park"
Source: Sheffield Park Garden, pp. 9
" 'Capability' Brown's most influential immediate successor, Humphry Repton, also worked at Sheffield Park as one of his earliest assignments. Alas, no Red Book survives, if one was ever made, and again it is difficult to be certain about this precise contribution. He visited several times in 1789 and 1790, and seems to have concentrated his efforts near the house where he created a series of four small lakes on the site of the present day First-Lake."
Sheffield Park Garden, pp. 11
Not all of the changes implemented under this new approach to gardening are seen as positive. Many decry the destruction of the grand formal gardens of an earlier era.
"The Caroline garden at Wilton must symbolize the thousands of formal gardens swept away by the fashion for the new landscape style. Here 'Capability' Brown emerges as the vandal, for he destroyed the three greatest Baroque gardens in England; Longleat House in 1757, and Chatsworth and Blenheim in 1760. Parterres, statues, canals, fountains, topiary, stately avenues and walks were cut down before the scythe of the " improver". "
Source: Lost Treasures of Britain: five centuries of creation and destruction, pp. 129
Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1715-1783 )
Humphry Repton (1752-1818)
Repton's "Before and After" Watercolours
This plaque is on the Lloyds TSB bank on the corner of Main Road and Balgores Lane in Romford (March 2000). Repton lived in a cottage on this site from 1783 until his death in 1818.
Humphry Repton (1752-1818), the son of a Suffolk exciseman, worked in a number of fields until he found success in landscape design. He is actually credited with inventing the term "landscape gardening" in order to express his theory that the art requires, "the united powers of the landscape painter and the practical gardener ". Repton's work for many country landowners and in London - the laying out of Russell Square in Bloomsbury and the redesigning of Kensington Gardens - all attracted notice. One of his basic tenets was that the natural site should set the tone for its landscaping.
Once a commission was accepted, he would stay at the estate for a couple of days to survey the property and make notes. During his initial visit to Rose Hill, on March 12 1806, it was blanketed by snow. Repton returned in June of that year to present his client, Jack Fuller, with a leather bound "Red Book", a practice for which he became well known. One of the interesting features of these books are illustrations he called "slides". Here he devised a folded flap (or in some cases flaps) as an overlay which when lifted showed the scene as it would look after the changes he proposed
Repton had grand plans for Rose Hill which were ultimately rejected by Fuller. The "Red Book for Rose Hill" is preserved in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Repton suffered an unfortunate accident in 1811 when his carriage tipped over and he sustained injuries to his back that left him confined to a wheelchair. His work increasingly became the responsibility of his two sons George Stanley and John Adey Repton.
Repton authored several articles on gardening for the Linnean Society, and wrote five books on his gardening philosophy and practice, including Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening (1794) and An Inquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening (1806).
He died in 1818 and is buried in the churchyard of Aylsham, Norfolk.