Sheffield Park and Garden, a Capability Brown site cared for by the National Trust, has run a small survey to find out what visitors know about Brown in the run-up to our 2016 Festival
Sheffield Park & Gardens
In 1776 Lancelot 'Capability' Brown created two of the famous lakes at Sheffield Park, Haywards Heath, West Sussex for John Baker Holroyd.
Sheffield Park covers around 250 acres of wooded landscape. The ornamental gardens lie in a valley of the River Ouse. John Baker Holroyd (later the 1st Earl of Sheffield) bought Sheffield Park in 1769 and began to remodel the house and garden. Brown built the Upper and Lower Woman’s Way Ponds. He also designed walks through the woodlands, with clearings to give views down to the lakes.
There are no records of payments to Brown, but it is known that he made several journeys to Sheffield Park. Jonathan Spyers carried out a survey there in 1776 and either one or two plans were then drawn up for “alterations of the Place particularly for the Water & the Ground around it”.
Before Brown came to Sheffield Park there was one narrow lake, shown on a 1774 map and in a view of 1787 as being surrounded by trees and open lawns. In the main north/south valley he built Upper and Lower Woman’s Way Ponds. These were the first two in what became a series of four lakes.
North-east of the lakes is Walk Wood, which was originally Sheffield Wood on a map of 1745. By 1774 a network of pathways had been created here. Brown is thought to have improved the design of these walks, probably felling trees as part of his scheme.
Sheffield Park today
Landscaper Humphry Repton (1752-1818; Wikipedia) visited the estate in 1789-90. His design created a series of four lakes and added to the planting in that area. In the 19th century further work saw the building of the Grand Cascade and a bridge, which link Brown’s two lakes in the centre of the valley.
After the Second World War, the estate was split up. The Grade I-listed house (Historic England) has now been converted into apartments. The National Trust took over the ornamental gardens in 1954. In 2016 work began on restoring the Brown landscape around Lower Woman’s Way Pond. The landscape park is also listed Grade I.
Dorothy Stroud, Capability Brown, Faber & Faber, 1975 edition, pages 238-239
Sarah Rutherford, Capability Brown and His Landscape Gardens, National Trust Books, 2016, page 75
Historic England: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000146