Quintessential British designer Capability Brown is celebrated for being one of Britain’s foremost landscape gardeners, shaping the way see the English countryside to this day. As 2016 marks his 300th anniversary, we take a look at the three landscapes he defined in Dorset, all within reach of Summer Lodge and The Acorn Inn.
It was his tendency to tell clients their garden had capability for improvement that gave Lancelot Brown the nickname Capability, which he is now most commonly known by. He is also widely considered to be England’s greatest ever landscape gardener, and one of the great English 18th century artists.
Born in Northumberland, he began learning his craft when he became the Head Gardener’s Apprentice at Kirkharle Hall. It wasn’t long before he’d won his first commission in Oxfordshire, followed by a move to Buckinghamshire, where he joined Lord Cobham’s gardening staff at Stowe, working under eminent gardener William Kent, one of the founders of the new English style of landscape gardening. It was here in 1742 that he became Head Gardener, while taking freelance commissions that resulted in his gardens being at the forefront of horticultural fashion.
Brown is said to have been behind more than 170 gardens of country houses and estates around Britain, introducing undulating lawns, scattered trees and serpentine lakes to estates such as Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle. And in Dorset, he was the designer behind the landscapes surrounding Sherborne Castle, Milton Abbey and Highcliffe Castle.
By travelling 20 minutes from Evershot, guests can reach Sherborne Castle to see some of Brown’s landscapes for themselves. Built in 1594, the castle now exhibits decorative styles from over 400 years of history, with a collection of artworks and artefacts on display. In celebration of Capability Brown’s tercentenary, the castle is now also showing an exhibition on his gardens, their impact and legacy. The Grade I-listed gardens he created here have remained the same to this day, exhibiting his distinct style of specimen trees, herbaceous borders and sweeping lawns. Take a stroll through the gardens before stopping off at the castle’s tea room and gift shop.
Another of the landscapes that Brown is responsible for surrounds the historic monument of Milton Abbey, which is a forty-minute journey from the hotels, The Abbey dates back to around AD 934, but it was in the eighteenth-century that Lord Milton became the owner of the estate, and it was at this time that Capability Brown was taken on to create what was one of his most extensive projects. Today, the Abbey is open to the public, enabling people to explore this sprawling land.
The final location on our tour of Capability Brown’s Dorset landscapes is Highcliffe Castle, a one-hour, twenty-minute journey from Evershot. In its scenic clifftop setting, Highcliffe is considered to be one of the most important surviving houses of the Romantic and Picturesque styles of architecture. Built in the 1830s, the castle was placed within the gardens of High Cliff, which Capability Brown was involved in designing, making this setting one of only two seaside landscapes he worked on.
Having explored these quintessential Capability Brown landscapes, take time out to relax in the typical English country gardens of Summer Lodge, and stroll through the verdant countryside that surrounds this country house and the cosy Acorn Inn.
Image credits: Cover photo of Sherborne Castle © iStock / Bruno il segretario. Milton Abbey © iStock / David Crosbie. The Landscape at Milton Abbey © Visit England / Milton Abbey. The Landscape Gardens at Sherborne Castle © Visit England / Sherborne Castle. Highcliffe Castle © iStock / Sam Castro.