By Maggi Andersen
One of my favorite things to do when in England is to visit the glorious gardens and mansions which often appear in some form in my novels.The first book in my new Regency series is titled UNMASKING LADY HELEN – The Kinsey Family. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown is the inspiration for one of the younger Kinsey’s Lord Tobias, who wishes to follow in the famous man’s footsteps. Brown designed the gardens for the Marquess of Walcott Toby’s grandfather.
There were several ground-breaking garden architects during the Georgian period, but I’ve only mentioned four here to give an idea of the development of the naturalistic landscape style:
Charles Bridgeman (1690-1738). His landscapes displayed formal elements such as parterres, avenues, geometrically shaped lakes and pools, and kitchen gardens. Transitional elements in his designs included lawns, amphitheaters, garden buildings and statues, winding paths through wooded areas to viewing points and the use of ha-has – a hidden ditch which created a subtle divide between landscape where animals roamed free, and the cultivated landscape. He was a key link between geometric formality and the onset of the naturalistic landscape style, which led to the informal landscaping of Kent and Brown.
William Kent (1685 to 1748)
Described by Horace Walpole as “the father of modern gardening.” Kent worked at Stowe, Claremont and Chiswick. He created a sequence of Arcadian set-pieces punctuated with temples, cascades, grottoes, and Palladian bridges, opening the field for the larger scale achievements of Capability Brown in the following generation. Stowe and Rousham are Kent’s most famous works. He also worked on the original plans for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1715 to 1783). Brown is the key character of the English Landscape movement. His gardens dominated the gardening style from the 1750s to the 1780s. He was called ‘Capability’ because of his habit of extolling the capabilities or potential of landscapes he s
urveyed. Brown created lakes and hills and changed the natural contours of the land. He destroyed expensively built formal gardens in favor of a landscape the owners would never see mature. But such was the charm of the man that they agreed.
Gardens designed by Brown include Stowe, Stourhead and Claremont.
Humphrey Repton (1752 to 1818) His work was a stepping stone between a ‘natural’ landscape and the return to the formal style. He introduced flowerbeds with balustraded terraces directly outside the house that could be used to enjoy the flowers. His best work can be seen at Attingham Park and Sherringham Hall. Repton re-introduced formal terraces, balustrades, trellis work and flower gardens around the house in a way that became common practice in the nineteenth century. He also designed one of the most famous ‘picturesque’ landscapes in Britain at Blaise Castle, near Bristol. At Woburn Abbey, Repton foreshadowed another nineteenth-century development, creating themed garden areas including a Chinese garden, American garden, arboretum and forcing garden. At Stoneleigh Abbey in 1808, Repton foreshadowed another nineteenth-century development, creating a perfect cricket pitch called ‘home lawn’ in front of the west wing, and a bowling green lawn between the gatehouse and the house.
View of the approach to Blaise Castle by Humphrey Repton. 1796.
I would love to visit the wonderful gardens open to the public, but for now I can only write about them.