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Capability Brown Festival

capability brown anniversary logo
1* Portrait of Capability Brown






The world famous landscape designer Lancelot (Capability) Brown was born in 1716, and 2016 marks the 300th anniversary of his birth. He is considered by many to be the Father of the quintessentially English landscape and changed the face of England with his ground-breaking designs that are, today, taken for granted - they are so natural that people don’t realise they are designed landscapes.


There will be many events taking place around the country throughout the year, from the more traditional talks, guided tours, children’s trails and activities, concerts, exhibitions, landscape painting and photographic competitions… through to fun runs, swimming in Brown’s lakes, triathlons and high tech geocaching. Visitors may choose to just relax and enjoy the fresh air and open spaces in his beautiful landscaped parks. As well as sporting activities, appreciation and enjoyment of nature is also being encouraged throughout the festival, including bat walks, birdwatching, pond dipping, plus tree and plant recognition - wherever opportunities arise, whether at Brown’s spectacular sites, or in local parks and nature reserves; on canal towpaths and urban footpaths. There will also be events at other venues who wish to participate in the festival.


National Geographic has nominated Brown sites across the UK, as one of the top 20 places to visit in the world, in 2016 and Visit England has called 2016 ‘The Year of the English Garden’.


The Heritage Lottery Fund has provided funding to enable the festival plans to be developed and implemented.



CAPABILITY BROWN (CB) in the Heart of England


As most Brown sites are in rural locations, volunteers in Birmingham, being in a central location, decided to “bring Brown to the city” and arrange some local events. Our visitors can then travel out to sites in the nearby counties, which form the wider ‘Heart of England’: to Trentham in north Staffs; Weston Park, Staffs; to the south, Croome, Worcestershire; to the east Compton Verney, Warwickshire; to the west, Tong Castle, Shropshire; and to the south-west Berrington Hall, Herefordshire. There have been 35 sites attributed to Brown in these 5 counties, although not all will be open to the public. Details can be found on the CB map on the national website (above).

This webpage will signpost visitors to local events and activities at participating sites and venues around the region






Some of the upcoming festival events 2016-17


other events linked to the Georgian era have been included


o CB-themed monthly exhibitions at Weston park in the Granary Art Gallery (GG) (free entry)

o At some sites: guided walks around Brown’s parkland
             ‘Capabili-teas’ – afternoon teas using Georgian recipes

o Events celebrating the 250thanniversary of the founding of the Lunar Society, Darwin House


o Coming soon:




See websites for details of events, opening times etc
January 04 Compton Verney: Photographic Competition (closing date April 1st)
February 01-28 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Staffordshire Society of Artists
  09 Croome, Worcs: Talk: Life and Times of Capability Brown
  10 Croome, Worcs: CB Winter walk
  11 Warwickshire Garden Trust: Talk on CB’s Warwick Castle Park
  14 Trentham: Walk: CB Sunday Scenes Tour
  24 Trentham: National Gardens Scheme: garden tour
March 01-31 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Embroiderer’s Guild
  01 Croome, Worcs: CB Talk: From Paradise.... to Croome
  07 Charlecote Park : Embroiderers' Guild CB-themed Exhibition (to October)
  17 Shropshire Garden Trust: Talk on CB’s Moccas Park , Herefordshire
  19 Compton Verney: Art in the Park (to December)
  20 Berrington Hall: Embroiderers' Guild CB-themed Exhibition (to November)
  20 Trentham: Walk: CB Sunday scenes Tour
  22 Croome, Worcs: West Mids NADFAS: CB special interest day
  29 Berrington Hall: Georgian Boots and Bonnets Trail
April 01-28 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Tim Scott Bolton
  13 Weston Park CB Masterclass with J. Phibbs
  11 Croome, Worcs: Embroiderers' Guild CB-themed Exhibition (to October)
  17 Croome, Worcs: Croome Encounters (weekly to September)
  17 Weston Park: CB Spring Walk: Exploring Temple Wood
  23 Barber institute: Friends’ special interest day on CB
May 01-30 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Simon Vernon
  01 Berrington Hall: CB Walks, (daily to November)
  03 Croome, Worcs: CB Walk: Patrons, Places and Landscape Design
  07/08 Hewell Grange, Worcs: National Gardens Scheme: Open gardens
  tbc Ragley Hall, Warks: Open water swimming in CB’s lake (to September)
  14/15 Packington Hall, Warks: National Gardens Scheme: Open gardens
June 01-29 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Russell Gilder
  10 St Philip’s Cathedral, Bham: CB-themed concert by Conservatoire students
  10 Birmingham: Birmingham Tours: Georgian Birmingham & Capability Brown, Open Top Big Buz Tour
  12 Weston Park, Staffs: CB-themed concert by Conservatoire students
  14 Croome, Worcs: Talk: Capability Brown and his landscape
  24 Worcester schools: CB-themed Exhibition & Concert
  25 Compton Verney: Regency Ball
  25-26 Compton Verney: ‘Park Life’ weekend
  29 Berrington Hall: CB Walk: Patrons, Places and Landscape Design
July 01-29 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Andrew Naylor
  02 Berrington Hall: Music to create a landscape
  05 Croome, Worcs: CB Talk: Brown’s gardens of the National Trust
  12 Croome, Worcs: CB Walk
  28 Weston Park: CB Summer Walk: The Wider Parkland Uncovered
August 01-30 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: National Fine Art Open
  08 Berrington Hall: Boating on CB’s lake
  14 Berrington Hall: Theatre: Histories of Capability Brown
  30 Various sites/events: Capability Brown’s Baptism, 1716
  30 Artrix, Bromsgrove: Embroiderers' Guild CB-themed Exhibition (to September)
Sept 01-29 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Graham Colling
  06 Croome, Worcs: Talk: Capability Brown, Visionary or Vandal
  15 Croome, Worcs: CB Walk: Understanding his design
  08-11 Various sites/events: Heritage Open Days (at some sites not normally open)
  18 Packington Hall: tbc
  25 Croome, Worcs: Brown’s 300th birthday party and exhibition launch
October 01-28 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: P.Brown & B.Thompson
  6-9 Warwick: ‘Warwick Words’ CB-themed Literary Festival
  11 Compton Verney: Stratford DFAS special interest day on CB
  30 Weston Park : CB Autumn Walk: Crunching through the leaves
Nov 01-29 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Matthew Wood
  19 Berrington Hall: Christmas with the Georgians
Dec 01-31 Weston Park (GG): CB Exhibition: Royal Birmingham Society of Artists



January     Events to be confirmed
February 6  

Anniversary of Capability Brown’s death, aged 66, in 1783

tbc     Closing events of the CB Festival in the Heart of England
tbc     Reviewing the Festival Legacy… what next?


Full national programme of festival events is available on the main website (see above), and is regularly updated


Full programme of the Embroiderer’s Guild exhibitions: https://embroiderersguild.com


CAPABILITY BROWN in Georgian Birmingham


edgbaston park and lake 2* Edgbaston Park and Lake

Birmingham has only one site with a direct link to Brown: Edgbaston Hall, which was owned by the Gough family and, in the 18th century, Sir Henry Gough commissioned Brown to redesign the surrounding park c.1775. The evidence for this has been found in Brown’s account book, now owned by the Royal Horticultural Society, and housed in the Linley Library:



Page 131, quote:

“Sir Henry Gough Bt at Edgbaston in Warwickshire

a Plan for the general alterations of the place sent to Sir Henry

Jan 30th 1776 paid in June 1777         42 0 0”


No plans have yet been located and no other evidence has been found. The site is now owned by the Calthorpe Estate and is leased by Edgbaston Golf Club, the Hall being used as the club house.


As this is a private golf club and in use 7 days a week there is no public access, but the parkland can be seen from the nature reserve, across the lake (see Winterbourne House and Garden entry, below).


Birmingham celebrates its Georgian history


St Philip's Cathedral at Night
3* St Philip’s Cathedral
With no other Brown sites within the city, volunteers decided to explore ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ as reflected in Georgian Birmingham, highlighting aspects of the city’s history to show Brown in the wider context of his era, through Georgian music, art, literature, theatre, architecture, philosophy, scientific developments and the industrial revolution, and men of the Enlightenment with local connections.


Events and displays are being arranged in Birmingham and the Heart of England counties:


  • Concerts, including composers of the era: Handel, Arne, Vivaldi, Mudge
  •  Georgian art in local art galleries, including artists such as Canaletto, Gainsborough and, inspired by Claude Loraine - Richard Wilson, the Father of British Landscape Painting.
  • A literary link through libraries, Dr Johnson, with his houses, now museums, in Lichfield and London,   and also the ‘Warwick Words’ literary festival; Lichfield also celebrates the life of David Garrick the actor, who knew Brown and was his neighbour in Hampton, when Brown, as the Royal Gardener, lived in Hampton Court, near London
  •  Buildings, including St Philip’s Cathedral, which had its 300th anniversary in 2015; St Paul’s Church in St Paul’s Square, the only surviving Georgian square in Birmingham; the historic Jewellery Quarter; Soho House, Handsworth church; the gun quarter and the Proof House; Sarehole Mill; plus many surviving Georgian domestic houses.
  • Birmingham Tours BUS TOUR. To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Lancelot `Capability’ Brown’s birth, Birmingham Tours is running a guided tour on the Big Brum Open Top Bus. With over 170 parks to his name, his influence was felt as close as Edgbaston Hall and Warwick Castle. Here in Birmingham canals, guns, brass and glass were the order of the day and the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution and the Lunar Society led the way in Georgian Birmingham. Although much of Georgian Birmingham was demolished during the 19th century we will highlight the hidden gems along our route including the hugely important network of canals in the city centre. Final booking date 10th May 2016, £12 per adult. More info.


Men of the Enlightenment


  •  The Lunar Society was founded in 1766, and celebrates its 250th anniversary this year with a programme of events. http://www.erasmusdarwin.org/the-lunar-society/  
  • There is a Lunar Society Trail around Birmingham city centre and beyond.
  • Members of the Lunar Society were talented scientists, doctors, philosophers, entrepreneurs and industrialists of the age, (http://www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/) and most invested in the booming canal developments from c.1750
  •  James Brindley (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Brindley), the much sought after canal designer, also has his tercentenary in 2016. Brown knew Brindley, and commissioned work from him. Several local canals were built during Brown’s lifetime.
  • Artists of the era developed new ways of presenting their work and Richard Wilson (1714-1782) has been called the Father of landscape painting, enhancing its status within the perceived hierarchy of art in the C18




Sites with 2016 festival events,

and others which link in with the Heart of England ’s Georgian theme


(Capability Brown Sites denoted by CB)


Artrix Bromsgrove


Tel: 01527 577330

email: boxoffice@artrix.co.uk


Barber Institute


Tel: 0121 414 2261



Berrington Hall


Tel: 01568 615721

Birmingham Canal Museum



Birmingham Greenways



Birmingham Museums(including Soho House  and Sarehole Mill)



Tel: 0121 348 8000

email: BMAG.enquiries@birminghammuseums.org.uk


Birmingham Tours


Tel: 078051 15998



Canal and River Trust


Tel: 03030 404040




Charlecote Park


Tel: 01789 470277

Chillington Hall


Tel: 01902 850236

St Bartholomew’s


  St Mary’s Handsworth 




St Paul’s Church 



St Philip’s Cathedral


Tel: 0121 262 1840



Compton Verney


Tel: 01926 645500

Compton Verney

4* Compton Verney, Warks


Coombe Country Park


Tel: 024 764 53720

email: coombe.countrypark@coventry.gov.uk

County Garden Trusts in the Heart of England :

Herefordshire and Worcestershire http://www.hwgt.org.uk/

Shropshire http://www.shropshiregardens.org.uk/

Staffordshire http://www.staffordshiregardensandparks.org/

Warwickshire http://www.warwickshiregardenstrust.org.uk/





Tel: 01905 371006


5* Croome, Worcs





Croome walled Garden


Croome Walled Garden

6* Croome walled garden


Erasmus Darwin House


Tel: 01543 306260

Edgbaston Hall 






Tel: 01543 433606


Fisherwick Staffs

7* Fisherwick, Staffs




Hewell Grange 



Tel: 01527 783017

email: roy.jones01@hmps.gsi.gov.uk

All visitors must be pre booked by email before arriving.

History West Midlands


Tel: 0800 121 4288

email: publisher@historywm.com


Ingestre Lodges


Tel: 01889 271013



Dr Samuel Johnson



Lichfield House: London House

Moseley Hall (currently a hospital)



Ice House & Dove Cote



Packington Hall


Tel: 01676 522020

email: kay@packingtonestate.co.uk


Proof House


Tel: 0121 643 3860

Ragley Hall


Tel: 01789 762090



Trentham Estate


Tel: 01782 646646


TrTrentham Estate

8* Trentham, Staffs




Tong Castle



  Warwick Words                programme being arranged, details to follow…

Wedgwood Museum


Tel: 01782 371903

email: info@wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk


Weston Park


Tel: 01952 852100


Weston Park

9* Weston Park, Staffs






Tel: 0121 414 3003

email: enquiries@winterbourne.org.uk



*Embroiderers’ Guild exhibitions at 5 local sites, dates vary.


All venues and dates for the Embroiderer’s Guild exhibitions can be found on this website:




Photo credits:

With thanks to: 1* Portrait of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, c.1770-1775, Cosway, Richard (1742-1821)/Private Collection/Bridgeman Images

2* Edgbaston Lake: Judith Al-Seffar     3* St Philip’s Cathedral: staff     4* Compton Verney: Gary Webb     5* Croome: Katherine Alker     6* Croome walled garden: Philip Aubrey    7* Fisherwick: Gareth Williams     8* Trentham: Gareth Williams     9* Weston Park: Gareth Williams


Further reading:
• Laura Mayer: Capability Brown and the English Landscape Garden, Shire Library, 2012
• Jane Brown: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown - The Omnipotent Magician 1716-1783, Pimlico, 2012


For further information please email: