- Photo © George Landow http://www.victorianweb.org
- Buckingham Palace Gardens after landscaping (Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2017)
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown drew up plans for remodelling part of the gardens at Buckingham Palace for King George III.
Around 1762-63 Brown produced two alternative schemes for the gardens at what was then Buckingham House or ‘The Queen’s House’. His plan involved using extra land from the area that is now Green Park. The more complicated scheme involved the creation of two large groves of trees around an oval lake. This was not done, but it appears that large numbers of trees were planted to form sheltering belts around the garden, as Brown had planned. In 1764 Brown was appointed Royal Gardener and he became responsible for the maintenance of the grounds at Buckingham House, along with other royal residences.
Brown’s plans for redesigning part of the gardens at Buckingham House have survived and are in the Royal Library at Windsor as part of the Royal Collection Trust (see left and above). There is no record of payment for these or of a survey.
Oval lake and shelter belts
Brown’s scheme included enlarging the gardens to the north to add land from what is now Green Park. One plan shows sheltering belts of trees planted right around the garden with pathways through them (see in Royal Collection). The more elaborate plan involved shaping drifts of trees to make two large groves around an oval lake (see in Royal Collection). This was not done, but it is likely that his scheme for making the gardens more private was followed, as belts of trees were planted along the boundaries.
The London plane was one of Brown’s signature trees, used extensively in the park at Petworth, Sussex. It is one of the dominant species in the belts that surround the gardens and pleasure grounds at what is now Buckingham Palace. It is not known whether any of these trees date from Brown’s time.
New design in 1825
In 1825 King George IV decided to rebuild Buckingham House as a royal residence. Architect John Nash (1752-1835, Wikipedia) provided the initial designs but was later replaced by architect Edward Blore 1787-1879, Wikipedia). At the same time the formal gardens laid out by gardener Henry Wise (1653-1738, Wikipedia) for Queen Anne were largely removed and botanist William Townsend Aiton (1766-1849, Wikipedia), superintendent of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, landscaped the gardens for the new Buckingham Palace.
Gravel paths around the boundaries of the garden, like those proposed by Brown, were added by Aiton. Brown’s oval lake was never built, but there is a rectangular lake of around 2 hectares, with a serpentine tail and two islands, also part of Aiton's scheme.
Buckingham Palace today
Since Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1953 the gardens have been used regularly for royal garden parties, though they are still primarily for the private use of the Royal Family. The gardens of Buckingham Palace are listed Grade II*.
Historic England: historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000795
Brown's plans reproduced from the Royal Collection, © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2017: www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/1/collection/929593 www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/1/collection/929593
Dorothy Stroud, Capability Brown, Faber & Faber, 1975, pages 122-123