Published by the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, Noble Prospects: Capability Brown & the Yorkshire Landscape tells the story of Brown’s work in Yorkshire, from his first known consultation at Harewood in 1758 to new projects at Stapleton and Byram just a few months before he died in 1783.
- Aske Hall by J. M. W. Turner Courtesy of Portland Basin Museum, Tameside Museums and Galleries, GMMG
- Aske Hall, Yorkshire by George Cuit (Cuitt) the elder © Goverment Art Collection (GAC number: 6951)
- View of Ask(e) 1792 © The Georgian Group
In 1769 and 1770 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was consulted by Sir Lawrence Dundas on improvements to his estate at Aske.
We know that Capability Brown made two trips to Aske, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, briefing a surveyor to make a plan in 1769, and returning the following year, but we cannot be sure what was implemented. A note in Brown's account book, undated but probably from 1770, records 'A Journey to Aske Hall in Yorkshire and Plans for a Bridge & the Head of the Water where the new Road was to go over'. Brown is thought to have advised about creating a classical bridge, curving drive, repairs to the beck (stream), new plantations and gravel walks.
Two visits to Aske
The Aske estate is around 165 hectares (407 acres), on land rising north from the valley of the Aske Beck. Sir Lawrence was a wealthy Scottish merchant and MP, who owned a number of other properties, including Moor Park in Hertfordshire. Sir Lawrence bought Aske in 1763 and had employed architect John Carr (1723–1807, Wikipedia) to remodel the house and offices in the 1760s, and may have scaled back Brown's plans for Aske because of the cost.
On his first visit to Aske on 6 September 1769, Brown spent two days going around the estate with surveyor George Jackson, who took instructions for a survey and plan. This plan was to include ‘all the Hills, Hollows, Levels, Walks, Waters, Woods, Trees and Buildings’. Jackson charged Sir Lawrence £47 and 5 shillings (more than £79,000 in 2015) for his services.
A year later Brown returned to Aske and again toured the estate with Jackson regarding his planned improvements. It is not clear whether a payment at this time from Sir Lawrence of £77 and 7 shillings (more than £126,000 in 2015) was made to Capability or to another ‘Mr Brown’. Brown received a payment through Drummonds Bank of £52 and 10 shillings (equivalent to £86,000 in 2015) in 1770, which may also relate to work at Aske.
A gardener’s report from March 1771 to the owner shows that old garden walls were being removed, gravel walks extended, the beck repaired and ‘young plantations’ were said to be ‘doing well’. These improvements may have been a result of Brown's advice.
A bridge over the beck
Jackson’s large scale map of the estate shows the route for a planned road, but the proposed ‘Head of the Water’ is not clear – only the formal pond in front of the house is shown. Some remodelling of the water feature may have been needed because a canal flowing into the pond via a cascade had been taken away.
Brown may also have been responsible for the classical bridge that carries the Richmond to Gilling road over the Aske Beck. In 1769 Sir Lawrence bought a painting by George Cuitt (1743–1818, Wikipedia; above), including the bridge. It was one of two views in which the artist showed how the park would look after the addition of a new water feature and removal of the formal avenue.
It has also been suggested that Brown planned the curving route between Low Lodge and Aske Hall, which can be seen on the map of 1813 but not on the earlier map of 1761.
Aske after Brown
The estate still belongs to the Dundas family, currently the 4th Marquess of Zetland. The gardens at Aske Hall are listed Grade II* and the house is listed Grade I; it is occasionally open to the public.
Information courtesy of the Yorkshire Gardens Trust and the New Arcadian Press.
For an extended and fully annotated account please see: Karen Lynch, ‘Capability Brown in Yorkshire’, in Dr Patrick Eyres (Ed), Yorkshire Capabilities: New Arcadian Journal 75/76, 2016 www.newarcadianpress.co.uk
For a lavishly illustrated account of Brown in Yorkshire please see: Karen Lynch, Noble Prospects: Capability Brown & the Yorkshire Landscape, Harrogate: Mercer Art Gallery & Yorkshire Gardens Trust, 2016 www.yorkshiregardenstrust.org.uk
Capability Brown's Account Book, page 114: www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/capability-brown-account-book
Historic England list entry: historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001056