At peace in an English landscape garden – Capability Brown at Croome Park

26 01 2012

 

‘Place-making, and a good English Garden depend entirely on principle and have very little to do with fashion.’

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83)

 

Yesterday I took a morning stroll through, Croome Park, a National Trust property, just a ten minute drive away.

Parts of the park and Croome Court, a mansion-house in the Palladian style, are closed to the public on weekdays until 13th February but there is partial access via public footpaths that criss-cross the estate.   

Croome Court and Landscape Park, just a few miles from Pershore, was Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s first major project. He started work in 1751 for George Coventry, 6th Earl of Coventry. The house is a rare surviving example of Brown’s architectural work. Parts of the interior design are by Robert Adam, as are a number of temples and follies in the park.      

Lancelot Brown always considered his work as ‘place-making’ rather than a ‘landscape gardening’, which was more a 19th century trade name.

With the Court as the central focus, Croome Park also has a manmade lake and river, as well as a series of ‘eye catcher’ buildings – gatehouses, statues, temples, a grotto, church and panorama tower, all set away from the core with the attention of drawing the eye into the wider landscape.  

Croome Court has hosted royal visits by George III, Queen Victoria and George V, and during World War II it sheltered the Dutch Royal family form the Nazi occupation of Holland.

In the 1940s the Coventry family had to sell up. The Tapestry Room designed by Adam, and containing a set of tapestries commissioned in Paris in 1763, was removed and is now displayed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum.  

For some time Croome Court housed a school, and then in the 1970s it was acquired by the Hare Krishna community as their national headquarters. Having stamped their own unique mark on the building they departed in the early ‘80s, relocating to Bhakti Vedanta Manor in Hertfordshire – donated to them by Beatle, George Harrison.  

For twelve years Croome Court  lay empty before being purchased as a 17 bedroom private residence. Then In 2007 it was bought from the private owners by the Croome Heritage Trust who have leased it to the National Trust for a ten-year period during which they will manage it while raising funds for its restoration.    

Apart from a few builders hard at work on the latest phase of restoration, I was able to roam the grounds in perfect solitude.

Sentinel herons nonchalantly launched into prehistoric flight, grazing geese scrambled, noisily  wheeling overhead, serene swans tiptoed along their river runway, rising in unison, lighting up  the sullen sky, while mallards and moorhens sculled in an out of the bulrushes.

Set in the Severn Vale against a back drop of the Malvern Hills, to the west, a brooding melancholy presence on a day such as this, and Bredon Hill seated to the east, Capability Brown’s 18th century composition is still pretty idyllic.

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