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.
In 1779 Lancelot 'Capability' Brown drew up a plan for remodelling the estate at Whitley Beaumont for owner Richard Henry Beaumont.
Beaumont’s father had already carried out work on the house and gardens at Whitley Beaumont near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. By 1760 there were formal avenues, serpentine paths and a terrace walk. Brown’s improvements included new plantations, thicker belts of trees, extending the park to the south and creating a new drive and entrance.
Brown’s visit to Whitley Beaumont in 1779 is recorded in his account book (see on RHS website). A plan, which no longer exists, was sent in May 1780 for the usual fee of £52 and 10 shillings (£86,000 in 2016). Before that visit, surveyor William Crossley had been instructed by Beaumont to measure the land on the estate.
Between 1780 and 1784 there was a lot of activity in the park, as Brown’s ideas were being put into practice. Telford’s nursery in York supplied trees for the new plantations. Letters written by Beaumont to his friend Christopher Sykes of Sledmere paint a lively picture of how the work was progressing.
In February 1783 Beaumont wrote that he was preparing the ground for planting and that Crossley was “marking out Mr Brown’s Plan”. The following month work was hampered by snow and frost so that Beaumont could only “level hills & dig up old Roads”. At that time he also mentioned moving large beech trees to “compleat [sic] a part of Mr Brown’s ornamental designs”.
Following his work at Temple Newsam, Brown again chose to adapt rather than remove the formal avenues at Whitley Beaumont. Extra planting behind them created the effect of a thick belt of planting around the whole estate. This can be seen on the estate map of 1822. In 1783-84 the lodges at the end of the avenue were replaced with ones designed by Sykes.
A maturing landscape
By 1816 the effects of Brown’s changes could be seen in the maturing landscape. Historian Thomas Dunham Whitaker appreciated the new design: “The park was surrounded by its last possessor with plantations, which at once contribute to shelter and render the place conspicuous as an object.”
The estate today
The decline of Whitley Beaumont began in 1836 when the house was closed up and there was no gardener to maintain the grounds. The park was taken over in 1947 for open-cast mining, though the “wooded deer hill in the centre of the parkland” was saved by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The land was eventually restored for agricultural use, but the house was pulled down in 1952.
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 144: www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/capability-brown-account-book