Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown worked for Sir Charles Browne at Kiddington in around 1740, and may have designed his first lake there.
Capability Brown is thought to have worked at Kiddington early in his career, after leaving Northumberland and before going to Stowe. The estate is 7 kilometres north-west of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, on hilly land crossed by the valley of the River Glyme. Brown may have returned to Kiddington in the 1760s to create the serpentine lake there and landscape the park.
There are no records of payments or plans for Brown’s time at Kiddington. His connection with the estate is known from references made in the years after his death. These include one by John Penn of Stoke House, south Buckinghamshire, who wrote in 1813 “It has been said that the first piece of water he [Brown] formed, was at Lady Mostyn’s in Oxfordshire”.
It is thought that Brown formed the 18th-century lake at Kiddington from the River Glyme, which runs from the north to the east of the park. This serpentine piece of water may be first of the many lakes that Brown created, though the date is not known. In the 18th century the south drive to the house probably ran along the west side of the northern arm of the lake, giving dramatic views of Kiddington Hall. There is now a second lake at the estate, built in the middle of the 20th century.
Brown’s park at Kiddington encloses the house, gardens and pleasure grounds, with areas of woodland and clumps of mature trees as well as single specimens. There are chestnut, beech, sycamore and lime trees in the park among other species, though it is not known how many of these were part of Brown’s design. The park at Kiddington does include an oak that is thought to be from the 18th century. South of the house there is a cedar of Lebanon – one of Brown’s signature trees – that may be a survivor of his time.
The smooth contouring of the land around Kiddington Hall is in Brown’s style, with the hillside below the main terrace sloping to the west and south towards the lake.
Kiddington Hall today
In the mid-19th century owner Mortimer Ricardo employed architect Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860, Wikipedia) to remodel the house in Italianate style. Barry also built a new stable block and formal terraces to the south and west of the house.
Kiddington Hall remains in private ownership. The latest owner, Jemima Goldsmith, is restoring areas of the park to what is thought to be Brown’s scheme.
Information courtesy of Oxfordshire Gardens Trust: http://ogt.org.uk/
Historic England: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001098