Essex prepares to celebrate ‘Capability’


The county of Essex is set to celebrate the tercentenary of landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s birth with special events for all the family.

Audley End House and Gardens, in Essex, is leading the local celebrations of Brown’s life and work with a series of Brownian-themed weekends. Brown arrived at Audley End in 1762, commissioned by the house’s owner, Sir John Griffin to landscape the surrounding parkland. In typical fashion, he appeared to reshape nature to his own design, widening the River Cam flowing in front of the house, laying out the graceful approaches and tree-planting on an epic scale.

The best way to appreciate the sheer grandeur and range of Brown’s imaginations is to walk amongst it. Audley End’s team of experts and guides will be conducting tours of the gardens with a self-guided trail for families. Visitors might even bump into Capability himself as they wander along.

Capability Brown weekends will run on 25th and 26th June and on 9th and 10th July.

In Hatfield Forest visitors will be able to enjoy a new play by writer and director Michael Whitmore – The Historie of Capability Brown – a rip-roaring romp through the great gardener’s life and times. The play will chart Brown’s rise from relatively humble beginnings in rural Northumberland, to fame and fortune as he became the ‘must-have’ garden designer of his age. The play will be performed on Tuesday 30th August.


Brown was tasked by Jacob Houblon in 1757 with perfecting the landscape of the lakeside gardens he had started. The result of Brown’s ‘perfecting’ was a magical Georgian pleasure ground still shrouded by the medieval forest. Today, it survives as one of the best examples in Britain of an almost complete Royal Hunting Forest.

On Wednesday 31st August, they will host The Big Brown Bash where visitors can unleash their own capabilities by volunteering to help clear the scrub and have a unique, hands-on experience as a 21st century Brownian.

Brown also worked at Copped Hall near Epping, Brentwood’s Thorndon Hall and Navestock Hall close to Ongar.

On Tuesday 24th May at St Mark’s College, Audley End, a special conference will be held to focus on Brown’s contributions to designed landscapes in Essex and explore the wider issues of the understanding, management and restoration of designed landscapes in the county and beyond. For further details of the conference log onto:


All photographs ©Visit Essex