‘In the Footsteps of Capability Brown’ is a partner project by Hampshire Cultural Trust, Basingstoke Young Carers, NADFAS and the Four Lanes Trust. The project aimed to introduce young carers to the life and work of Capability Brown, to mark 300 years since his birth.
- Broadlands, photo courtesy Hampshire Gardens Trust
- Broadlands engraved by Prosser Hampshire Record Office: 728.8 G F Prosser, Select Illustrations of Hampshire, 1833-9
In 1767 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown remodelled the house and park at Broadlands for the 2nd Viscount Palmerston.
In 1767 Henry Temple, the 2nd Viscount Palmerston, engaged Capability Brown to redesign Broadlands, south of Romsey, Hampshire. Brown laid out new curving drives giving views of the house, refaced and extended the house, replaced formal gardens with rolling lawns and updated the buildings in the garden.
An ancient estate
The house dates back to the 10th century, when it formed part of the abbey of Romsey. In 1736 Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston, bought the estate, and began to create more informal gardens leading down to the River Test, with the help of landscape architect William Kent (1685–1748, Wikipedia).
Brown continued the work of developing the park to the north, north-east and east of the house, as far as the Burma Road. The land was laid to permanent pasture, and a variety of trees, including some exotic species, were planted individually or in clumps, with a belt along the northern boundary.
To the south-east (in the area of South or New Park), the land was also laid to grass, but with larger clumps of trees. To the west, in the Mainstone area, only the eastern section was brought into Brown’s scheme for the parkland.
Laying out the parkland
Brown laid out the serpentine main drive from the north of the park to the east entrance of the house and the part of the south-east drive west of the Burma Road. He also designed an entrance on the estate’s northern boundary beside Middle Bridge, with a drive winding east and then south to allow vistas of the house.
The 16th century mansion had been designed in a U-shape facing east. Brown’s work involved recladding it with brick, adding an Ionic portico to the west front and pedimented bays to the south front. Twenty years later, his son-in-law, Henry Holland, made internal changes to the mansion and added a portico on the east front.
Brown probably converted an older structure on the estate to create the Grade II (Historic England) listed Dairy House, which is part brick and part stucco with gothic details. Holland carried out further alterations to it. They both made additions to the yellow brick, rectangular orangery building, which is now listed Grade II* (Historic England).
Two surveys from the 1780s show the open lawns designed by Brown to replace the formal garden enclosures south and south-west of the house. His design had kept a few clumps of tress and the belt along the stream that runs southwards through the centre of the park.
Broadlands after Brown
The 3rd Viscount Palmerston (Prime Minister from 1855–58) acquired land to the south and west of the estate. He extended the park to its current boundaries and added new planting in Brown’s style.
The estate has been in the Mountbatten family since the 1920s. The parkland planting was restored to Brown’s scheme in the 1990s.
Biodiversity at Broadlands
At Broadlands the parkland features support a variety of habitats including wood pasture and parkland, deciduous woodland, broadleaved woodland and wetland habitats associated with the river including coastal and floodplain grazing marsh.
Part of the site is the River Test Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) one of the most species rich chalk rivers in southern England that supports an abundant and exceptionally rich aquatic flora and invertebrate fauna, birds fish and aquatic molluscs including the nationally rare river water-dropwort, riffle beetle and pea mussel.
Follow this link for more information on habitats and species supported by Brown landscapes www.capabilitybrown.org/biodiversity-and-natural-environment
Follow this link for more information on River Test SSSI https://necmsi.esdm.co.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/2000170.pdf
Historic England: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000166
The Hampshire Gardens Trust research website (www.hgt.org.uk/) carries research summaries. Full research reports are deposited at Hampshire Record Office and are catalogued as HGT [name of site]: www3.hants.gov.uk/archives.htm. Any other enquiries should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.