BOOK REVIEW: A Brush with Brown

A Brush with Brown

The Landscapes of ‘Capability’ Brown

Tim Scott Bolton

Dovecote Press
ISBN 978-0-9929151-3-1



In his thoughtful introduction Prince Charles reminds us that Brown was made Chief Master Gardener at Hampton Court Palace by George III and that he restructured the grounds of Buckingham House  ‘the foundations of which survive today as the gardens of Buckingham Palace’.

For this really enjoyable celebration of ‘Capability’ Brown’s genius the accomplished artist Tim Scott Bolton visited and recorded nearly a third of the gardens Brown is known to have been involved with from the north of England to the south.  The text is also enriched by Scott Bolton’s observations on the thoughts and processes behind his pictures.

I shall leave you with this thought:

A contemporary of ‘Capability’ Brown’s once said to him, ‘I very earnestly wish I may die before you, Mr Brown.’

‘Why so?’ he replied.

‘Because I would like to see Heaven before you have improved it.’”

Capability Brown

Capability Brown at Compton Verney


(C) Stuart Thomas

(C) Stuart Thomas

This year marks the the 300th anniversary of the birth of the truly great English gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and it is being marked by many events in the wonderful landscapes he created for his patrons around the country. It is fitting for me to begin my occasional coverage with Compton Verney where an important restoration project is taking place, thanks to a £2.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund Grant.



Brown would say to prospective clients when viewing their estates that the place had “capabilities” – thus earning his soubriquet.  By moving hills, damming rivers to create lakes, and planting trees he literally remade the gardens into what is now celebrated as the quintessential idyllic English landscape. Among the features Brown introduced at Compton Verney were the ice house and a new chapel to replace the old one he had pulled down as it spoilt the view.

West Lawn Cedar DJ 2008

West Lawn Cedar
DJ 2008


Ice house © 2013 John Cleary Photography

Ice house
© 2013 John Cleary Photography