Hi everyone! With this post I am starting a new section of my blog entitled “Second Servings” where I talk about all sorts of things history and/or food related. I hope that you find this just as interesting! Plus, this post still involves cake which must be a good thing.
This weekend I visited Wimpole Hall Estate, a National Trust property and one of my favourite places to explore. I didn’t know this prior to arriving there, but it turns out it was a fortunate time to visit as they were celebrating the 300th birthday of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783). ‘Capability’ Brown was a famous landscape architect who designed some of the grandest country estates, changing the face of 18th century England. He often said that these country estates had great “capability” for improvement, hence his nickname! Wooded areas, tree-dotted parklands and lakes that resemble rivers are characteristics of Brown’s large-scale designs.With a team of foremen, surveyors and achitects, he worked on over 250 sites over 40 years, more than 150 of which still exist today.
Although nowadays, ‘Capability’ Brown is regarded as something of a genius, it seems that this was not always the case. For example, in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Views The Body, published in 1928, she is rather uncomplimentary about his style, describing it as “eccentric”, showing how tastes have changed in the space of nearly 90 years, and how perhaps our contemporary views are mixed with feelings of nostalgia. Regardless of this, he created some very impressive landscapes, of which the Wimpole Estate is a fine example!
“A late owner, however, had burst out into the more eccentric sort of landscape gardening which is associated with the name of Capability Brown.” (Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Views The Body, 1928)
Wimpole Hall Estate in Cambridgeshire has many different events to celebrate the legacy of ‘Capability’ Brown, who designed their North Park in the late 1760s and early 1770s. Their chefs have created an incredible landscaped cake version of the Wimpole Estate.It looked absolutely amazing, and I am afraid that my photos (sadly taken on my phone as I didn’t know I would be needing to take blog photos!) do not do it justice. I believe that they were serving slices of the cake to lucky visitors! They were also offering a cup of tea in a Georgian-style tent and there was a chance for visitors to have a Georgian-style silhouette portrait drawn by Mark “The Shadow Cutter” Conlin!
Around the North Park of the estate (the central feature of which is a gothic folly resembling the ruins of a medieval tower and also includes avenues of trees and serpentine lakes which from higher ground appear to flow like a river) we came across striking structures that held a mirror and a quote by Brown. The artwork, created by a design practice called NEON, capture a unique element of Brown’s design and encourage the visitor to view it with an artist’s eye. The mirrors are reference to something called a Claude glass (named after Claude Lorrain, a 17th-century landscape painter), a slightly convex, tinted hand-held mirror which was used by artists to help frame a large view and simplify the colour and tone of the scene. Although many of the events celebrating ‘Capability’ Brown’s birthday were just for this weekend, these nine three-metre high structures will be up until October, so there is plenty of time to visit them. Of course, the landscapes will be there at any time!
Overall, it was a very enjoyable and interesting experience. Wimpole Hall is a lovely place to visit at any time of the year and I greatly encourage everyone to explore it. You can visit their website and find out more details about the estate, their ‘Capability’ Brown celebration and the National Trust in general here and here, and more about ‘Capability’ Brown here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post; let me know whether you would like to see more of this style of post in the future. Thanks for reading!