BOWOOD House and Gardens will celebrating the 300th birthday of the man who designed their popular gardens, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in 2016.
Having purchased Bowood Park and its unfinished House in 1754, Lord Shelburne’s next quest was a befitting park.
His son, William, took up the reins upon succeeding to the title in 1761, later becoming the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, and it was he who commissioned Mr Brown to landscape Bowood Park in August 1762.
A lake was formed by damming two streams and the parkland on its western side was sculpted for great vistas to sweep down to the water’s edge.
Mr Brown was to level the ground, enlarge the pond and ensure a sufficient flow of water, make all the roads, provide and plant all the trees and shrubs, sow grass seed and make the Great Plantations.
The project was due for completion by June 1766 and a fee of £4,300 was agreed, over three-quarters of a million pounds if undertaken today.
For his part, Lord Shelburne was to provide horses, carts and wheelbarrows and find exotic trees from abroad.
Lord Lansdowne, the First Earl of Shelburne's descendant, said: "For his part, Capability Brown was a really astute businessman as well as a visionary designer.
“Capability Brown’s arboretum has been augmented right up to the present day and virtually every period of English garden design, from the Georgian period onwards, is now represented at Bowood.”
The work itself began in 1763 and it’s believed that a total of 300 men worked on the project over five years.
Once all the work was completed, Bowood House was set naturally into its landscape with belts of trees encircling the Pleasure Grounds beyond the House's walled garden.
Bowood's archivist, Jo Johnston, said: “Just as Lancelot Brown waxed lyrical to Lord Shelburne about Bowood’s outstanding setting so would he also emphasise, to his many other landed clients, the great ‘capability’ of their own estates for improvement - this was how the Capability tag was added to his name.
“Ahead of the likes of Blenheim Palace and Highclere Castle doing so, Bowood’s appointment of Capability Brown was clearly a significant one as by the 1760s his usual annual charge for a single commission was £500.”
For more on the Bowood House and Garden events in 2016 visit www.bowood.org/bowood-house