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‘Capability’ Brown, best known for designing gardens and landscapes at some of the country’s grandest stately homes including Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth, Highclere Castle, Burghley, Weston Park and Compton Verney.
‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape gardens are synonymous with England’s green and

NPG 6049; Capability Brown

NPG 6049; Capability Brown

pleasant land with their seemingly natural rolling hills, curving lakes, flowing rivers and majestic trees.
A nationwide festival and programme of events is planned with the opportunity to visit over 150 Brown gardens and landscapes in England, including some not usually open to visitors.

‘Capability’ Brown gardens
After centuries of stiff, formal and enclosed gardens, ‘Capability’ Brown transformed landscapes across England in the 18th century using a new natural style, now considered quintessentially English. He replaced heavy formality with wide open expanses, views and vistas and introduced his signature contouring hills, serpentine lakes and strategically-placed specimen trees.
This was gardening on a vast scale, creating parkland and woodland, and using trees to give the same effect as shrubs in regular gardens.
The Shakespeare of English garden design, his gift was to develop gardens and landscapes that looked natural and in harmony with the surrounding countryside even though they often involved moving thousands of tonnes of earth to create the gentle contours and installing expansive manmade lakes, that looked wonderful but were also part of practical drainage systems.

‘Capability’ Brown
An estate worker’s son, Lancelot Brown was born in August 1716 in the tiny village of Kirkharle, Northumberland.
He mastered the principles of his craft serving as a gardener’s boy at the local country house, Kirkharle Hall. By 1741 he had reached Stowe, an estate in Buckinghamshire where he quickly assumed responsibility for one of the most pioneering and magnificent landscape gardens in England. He stayed at Stowe for ten years and married Bridget Wayet in the local church. While at Stowe, he started to take independent commissions and became hugely sought after by the owners of large country house estates. The 7-mile round grounds at the Burghley estate in Lincolnshire were one of the most important commissions of his career which took more than 25 years to complete. He also practised
architecture and during the 1750s contributed to several country houses including Blenheim, Chatsworth, Harewood and Compton Verney.
Brown earned the nickname of ‘Capability’ as he told his clients that he could see the capabilities for improvement in their gardens and landscapes. He was hardworking, constantly busy and with a habit of not always charging for his work. Reportedly he refused to work in Ireland as he had not yet finished England.
Brown is associated with as many as 260 sites, a large number of which can still be seen today. By the time he died in 1783, 4,000 gardens had been landscaped according to his principles. And his design influence on parks and gardens spread across Northern Europe to Russia and through Thomas Jefferson to the United States.

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‘Capability’ Brown Festival
A nationwide festival and events programme is being developed, including the opening of sites not usually accessible to visitors. More details will be released over the coming months.
At 13 major gardens including Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth and Croome, visitors will be able to see speciallycreated ‘Capability’ Brown exhibitions.

For more festival details, an interactive map of ‘Capability’ Brown gardens and landscapes and event listings, visit capabilitybrown.org
For more on England’s gardens, go to visitengland.com

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New testing at the highest stone circle in southern England show that it could be as old as Stonehenge.

Geophysical testing at the Sittaford Tor site has enabled researchers to date it to at least 4,000 years ago. Photo: Dartmoor National Park Authority

Geophysical testing at the Sittaford Tor site has enabled researchers to date it to at least 4,000 years ago. Photo: Dartmoor National Park Authority

The first radio-carbon testing ever carried out on a stone circle on Dartmoor’s open moorland show that the stones at the ring near Sittaford Tor fell over some 4,000 years ago, meaning they could have been built considerably before this.

Mike Nendick, from Dartmoor National Park authority, said the dating showed that the ring, 34 metres in diameter, could be “of a similar age to Stonehenge”, which was built between 2,000 and 3,000 BC.

The circle, on the northern part of the moor, is the first on Dartmoor to have been investigated in 100 years, and at an altitude of 525 metres is the highest in southern England.

It is the second largest ring in the Devon national park, the biggest being Mardon Down near Moretonhampstead, at 38.2 metres in diameter.

Thirty of the stones in the ring are now lying flat, but researchers believe they once stood upright because of packing material found around their bases.

Mr Nendick said that the discovery allowed researchers to “begin to build a picture” of the communities that lived on Dartmoor in the Neolithic era. “We think that the stone circles were part of their religious practices, and some excavations show that fires were burnt in the middle of the rings.”

He said that the building of the sacred arc showed, “a level of co-operation between tribal communities” for religious purposes, adding that this and other discoveries in the national park suggested “not primitive peoples but highly skilled artisans,” who traded internationally and with other coastal communities.

Dartmoor has about 15 stone circles, which are typically 20-40 metres in diameter and mostly similar in design, excluding characteristics such as central pillars, which are found in formations in other parts of the West Country. One example is Scorhill, near the village of Gidleigh, which is an English Heritage scheduled monument and has been described as one of Dartmoor’s finest rings.

The full report from the geophysical testing is expected in a few weeks’ time, when researchers expect to further their knowledge of the Sittaford Tor site. During the research, a trench was discovered running up to one side of the circle, but its purpose remains unknown at present.

The research was made possible by funding from Moor Than Meets The Eye, a Heritage Lottery funded scheme.

The Sittaford Tor circle is also a similar age to the Ring of Brogdar on Orkney, and 500 years older than Flag Fen near Peterborough. Dartmoor is one of the most significant sites of Neolithic ruins in Western Europe, home to about 5,000 prehistoric houses and many dozens of stone circles.

Read the full story in the Telgraph

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