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Capability Brown in Kent

By Elizabeth Cairns

Additional authors: Cilla Freud, Beverley Howarth, Paul Howarth, Liz Logan, Geraldine Moon, Mike O'Brien and Hugh Vaux


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Capability Brown in Kent tells the story of the great 18th-century landscape gardener’s commissions in Kent. 

He worked at Ingress, Leeds Abbey, Valence, Chilham Castle and North Cray Place. These sites are all relatively small scale, and most have been much altered since Brown’s involvement. Nevertheless, the authors of this book demonstrate clearly how a detailed look at what he achieved in Kent provides valuable insights into his remarkable output throughout the country.

All five estates reveal elements of ‘classical’ Brown work. Thus he built dams and created lakes at Leeds and Valence, planted sinuous tree belts at North Cray Place and Ingress, removed avenues at Ingress and Valence, and placed specimen trees in key positions at all the sites. Whilst he removed formal gardens at Leeds and Ingress he was generally sensitive to the views of his patrons and contemporaries. As an architect and ‘refurbisher’ with a fondness for working in both Gothic and Palladian forms, there are examples of his work at Chilham Castle and Valence.

The book describes the social context of the time, and shows how Brown was adept at moving amongst the political, business and professional landowning classes. This allowed him to apply, during a period of little more than 35 years, his genius as a landscape gardener and his acumen as a businessman to the creation of five very different sites in Kent and over 200 throughout England.

“Let us applaud Kent Gardens Trust researchers who have pieced together remnant evidence to re-evaluate his major contribution to the liberating design story of the English landscape in Kent.” Steffie Shields

“I am delighted that Kent Gardens Trust has added this scholarly contribution to the celebration of the tercentenary of his birth. The details that emerge about the five commissions that he undertook in the county present a thought provoking

microcosm of his enormous oeuvre and illustrate themes that resonate through his career.” George Plumptre

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