Being Lancelot Brown

2016 has been varied and busy for me thanks to it being Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s 300th anniversary. I have pretended to be Brown, I have been photographed with different images of Brown, given talks about his work and given displays on Georgian Gardening. I even went to Ireland to give a talk in Armagh, one up on Lancelot Brown, who refused to work in Ireland, having said, ‘I have yet to finish England.’

It has certainly been an interesting and eventful year.

Here are some of the highlights of my year as Mr Lancelot Brown.

The year began with a photo-shoot at the West Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate. The photo was to be taken with a landscape student who had won a competition to redesign part of the showground in the style of Brown. Unfortunately snow began to fall gently, and then a blizzard soon developed. The photos were all taken in the snow which was cold work but the results were certainly more dramatic.


Where on earth is that? Too much landscape detail lost in the snow.

The Spring show at Harrogate soon came round and I spent three days at the show as Mr Brown with my display of Georgian gardening and surveying equipment set up next to a temporary room , designed to look like a garden temple, although the cold temperatures meant that the glue wouldn’t set properly and parts fell off during the event. Inside the temple were information boards about Brown and his gardens in the north of England. I gave a talk every morning in the large Floral Marquee.

It was at Harrogate where I got to drink some ‘Incapability Brown Ale’ brewed by Great Newsome Brewery, and very tasty it was too, but best after work, not during.

Haddonstone, a company that is local to me in Northamptonshire, commissioned a bust of Brown, using the same painting that I based my clothing on. I met the bust again later in the year.


The Haddonstone bust of Brown









I went to Studley Park Royal Gardens, a landscape Garden that includes the genuine ruins of Fountains Abbey. I had the whole gardens to myself before  and after opening times. There was a very hard frost one morning which made the garden look magical.



A cold and frosty morning.

I spent two weekends at Blenheim Palace, where there was an excellent display that included many paintings that are not usually on show.12717611_1243376049010729_2750167390206429219_n-copy

They had a cardboard cut-out of Mr Brown made for the

Later I was back to Woodstock to give a talk at the Oxfordshire Museum’s ‘Tokens of Love’ display, my theme being ‘Sacred and Secular Love in the Medieval Garden’- it hasn’t been just Brown this year!



Compton Verney held a Georgian Weekend that followed the vote to leave Europe. I featured in the national evening news- scything into an unknown future, but my favourite part was collapsing into a comfy seat Sunday evening when we finished.


A relaxing way to finish the day. where’s the wine?


Chichele College at Higham Ferrers held a Plant Fair. As a part of Northamptonshire
Gardens Trust I helped to make a table top Brown landscape based on the  Knuckle Bone Arbour part of the gardens at Castle Ashby.

There was a scarecrow competition.

First place was taken by a certain Ginger Spice.

Capability Brown came last…


Northamptonshire Gardens Trust also invited school children and others who would not normally be able to see a Brown garden to Castle Ashby House. I organised one group of children into a team to pretend to scythe a lawn. Thank goodness it was only pretend or Northampton Hospital A and E would have been very over-worked.

Madingley Hall is one of Brown’s smaller gardens. I spent q very long day there. In the morning Richard the Head Gardener and I went to visit a local school to tell them about the hall gardens and Brown. We had an amazing reception. Later in eh afternoon the teacher brought us a pile of pictures drawn by the children.


Somehow I acquired a sword.

After lunch I displayed Georgian gardening and surveying equipment and helped visitors to understand the garden.

I spent three weekends in August at Wimpole Hall. I had a silhouette made, a  very Georgian thing to do.


The evening was spent at a reception and presentation my several other people and myself.


My most challenging event was to speak to some visiting Chinese students at one of the cambridge colleges. My presentation pictures had to be sent off to have the captions translated into chinese


Brand ‘Brown!’ 布朗 品牌效应!



In November I went to Armagh in Northern Ireland to give a talk at the Archbishop’s Palace. The talk was held in a lovely room with chandeliers and Christmas decorations.


They even bought me a birthday cake!

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On the Monday after my weekend in Ireland I was out again with Northamptonshire Gardens Trust to plant trees at the sites of all the people we had invited to Castle Ashby.img_0094-2


I am a garden historian, but a practical one. I resarch how gardening was carried out in the past, rather than just researching gardens. It can be very interesting. Some things that I learn seem to be rather unbelievable. Some other methods are still very practical. Visit my web site-

Posted in CB 300, Historic Gardener. Gardening-Horticulture
One comment on “Being Lancelot Brown
  1. rosbott says:

    Hi Mike. This looks like it was really interesting and fun to do! You might be interested in my blog post on Brown’s family history, which I wrote a year ago:

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