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Capability Brown

300 year Celebration of the Birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown

4 intrepid parishioners from St Peter and St Paul’s church in Fenstanton cycled from Kirkhale in Northumberland : the birthplace of the fabled visionary gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, to Fenstanton where he died in 1783, cycled between 23rd and 27th August. The four cycled some 238 miles in aid of the restoration of Brown’s Memorial in the church. John Jackson, one of the riders, kept HCR104fm’s listeners updated each morning on the progress the quartet had made the previous day until they finally arrived back at the church yard at 4.45pm on the Saturday to a champagne reception in the Church Centre.

Capability Brown is often described as “England’s greatest gardener”. It is estimated that Brown was responsible for over 170 gardens surrounding the finest country houses and estates in Britain. His work still endures at Croome Court (where he also designed the house), Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Harewood House, Bowood House, Appuldurcombe House, Milton Abbey (and nearby Milton Abbas village), in traces at Kew Gardens and many other locations. This man who refused work in Ireland because he had not finished England was called “Capability” Brown, because he would characteristically tell his landed clients that their estates had great “capability” for landscape improvement.

His style of smooth undulating grass, which would run straight to the house, clumps, belts and scattering of trees and his serpentine lakes formed by invisibly damming small rivers, were a new style within the English landscape, a “gardenless” form of landscape gardening, which swept away almost all the remnants of previous formally patterned styles.

Lancelot Brown bought the ‘Manor of Fen Stanton’ (which included the Parish of Hilton) from the Earl of Northampton for the sum of £13,000 with this title came an official residence, the Manor House, which still stands today. It is thought that Brown may have used this house as his estate office when visiting his parish.

The Fenstanton Parish Church produced ‘A Floral Celebration’ of the life and work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown on the August Bank Holiday weekend with amazing displays of flowers inside the church itself. These included a very impressive “river” running down under the painted pastoral scene in the chancel, down the steps ending a ‘pond’ at the foot of the stairs. Kath Doggett was the Flower Festival designer and many of the displays were created by local flower arrangers and members of the congregation.

For more information about Capability Brown, his work and times – visit www.capabilitybrown.org