Weston Park is preparing to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who created the magnificent grounds in which the 17th century house sits.
The proliferation of Capability Brown’s work across the country is vast, but what particularly makes Weston a national treasure is it’s pleasure grounds; Temple Wood and Shrewsbury Walk. These naturalistic paradises are based on classic Brown designs and the Foundation is working on their continued restoration to reflect their appearance in the 1760′s. However, they are an unusual find in the 21st century, at which time it is believed there are only five such schemes in existence.
“The national significance of Capability Brown’s legacy at Weston is something we are very keen to share with the widest audience possible as we prepare to take part in the Capability Brown 300 Festival in 2016″ Gareth Williams, Curator to the Weston Park Foundation.
2016 a year of celebration
From garden events in the grounds he designed to exhibitions by Brown and talks and walks enthused by the master, Weston Park is set to immerse itself into the world and legacy of England’s most illustrious landscaper.
Weston has always celebrated its Capability Brown heritage; it’s views across the landscapes he created that to continue to woo brides and grooms holding their wedding receptions. It’s the restful walks through the pleasure grounds that today’s visitors enjoy, just as Brown would have intended when he scribed his vision. And it’s to the Walled Garden, laid out by Brown, that Weston’s head chef still looks to yield produce such as fruit, nuts and herbs. All around Brown’s legacy continues to live and breathe at Weston.
In the beginnings
Weston’s Brown story begins in 1762, when Sir Henry Bridgeman inherited the estate. Brown was commissioned by Sir Henry as part of a flurry of activity he undertook to improve the house and its grounds, for which he had great ambitions. For the house, fine furniture and artworks were ordered from London and Paris, whilst for the grounds, having seen the work undertaken for friends and others from London society, Sir Henry knew there was only one man for the job.
The scheme took over two years to complete, requiring a complete revision from formal planting to the composure of a natural, harmonious world. Hundreds of workers were drafted in to carry out the work, which called for the excavation of groundworks to carve out the undulated grassy banks, the removal of avenues of trees to make the way for clumps and scatterings of trees and the re-direction of pathways to change the views they created.
Planning for the future
The estate has been in the care of the Weston Park Foundation since 1986. In overseeing its conservation, the Trustees have in place an ongoing restoration. In the lead up to this special year the focus has been upon the refurbishment of the Temple of Diana, which sits overlooking Temple Wood, Like the work of Brown, this was very much a fashion statement when it was built in the 1770′s to the design of James Paine, particularly as it had within its grounds a highly prized menagerie in which brightly plumed birds would have been housed.
This architectural gem is at once a garden building, music venue and dairy set over three floors that are reached by two winding staircases. The Temple of Diana is now a luxury holiday property, sleeping 6, which gives guests the rare opportunity to stay in a Brown landscape.
Over the last 15 years the Trustees have been working on returning the landscape to Brown’s original vision whilst remaining sympathetic to the marks left by previous generations. Work has included rhododendron clearances, opening up views and vistas and dredging Temple Pool to accentuate it’s mirror like finish.
Key events for 2016
There will be a variety of ways for people to discover and enjoy the world of Capability Brown at Weston Park, from a day out to taking part in one of the many events taking place.
The schedule will include rolling monthly exhibitions in the Granary Art Gallery with works inspired by Brown, guided walks with Head Gardener Martin Gee, talks with Curator Gareth Williams and a special extended opening of Temple Wood itself to be enjoyed throughout the changing seasons.
Notes to editors
Weston Park is the regional hub (Shropshire, Staffordshire, North and Mid-Wales) for the Capability Brown 300 Festival that is being led by the Landscape Institute along with partners that include English Heritage, Royal Horticultural Society and Visit England.
For more information please visit capabilitybrown.org
Weston Park’s Head Gardener Martin Gee enjoys a connection with Weston unlike anyone else. His family have been tending to the gardens since 1803; as a result his knowledge and insight into the Capability Brown legacy is something that has been passed through the generations. Martin will be a key part of the celebrations leading walks and other events in 2016.
Curator and Head of Learning, Gareth Williams, is championing Weston Park’s role as one of the nation’s key properties for the Tercentenary celebrations by co-ordinating the hub region and supporting other Brown associated sites in their access and events throughout the year. Gareth is curating 12 special exhibitions for 2016, which will take place in the estate’s art gallery, he will also be carrying out a number of masterclasses and cultural tours.