18th Century Gardens - The English Landscape Style

During the eighteenth century, many formal gardens were swept away in the fashion for natural landscapes where the irregularity of nature replaced geometry and order.

The carefully composed views from the house were of an idealised landscape: green parkland as far as the eye could see, punctuated by natural groupings of trees, a serpentine lake and classical temples or statues. There were no visible boundaries to interrupt the view, and the ha-ha (a concealed ditch) was created to keep animals grazing in the parkland away from the house.

The most well-known exponent of the English Landscape style was Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-83), whose work can be seen at Petworth Park. Here, Brown redesigned the gardens and park for the Earl of Egremont from 1751 to 1763, creating the garden which was to be made famous in the paintings by JMW Turner.


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Petworth Park

© NT/John Miller/Rupert Truman

Most large estates established by the eighteenth century feature parkland landscapes, many of which survive today, such as at Goodwood , Parham, Sheffield Park, where Capability Brown was employed in 1776.


Goodwood Parham Sheffield Park
 Goodwood  Parham

Sheffield Park

18th Century watercolour

by unknown artist

(© NT/John Hammond) 


Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) followed in Brown's footsteps by creating picturesque parkland, and he reintroduced the idea of planting ornamental flowers and shrubs near the house. He presented his ideas to new clients in his Red Books which show a series of before-and-after views of the landscape. Repton added to Capability Brown's designs at Sheffield Park and advised on the redesigning of the lakes, although no Red Book survives.

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Sheffield Park as it is today following Repton's changes (© NT/John MillerAndrew Butler)


The Red Book for the garden at Uppark is dated 1810 and shows Repton's proposals commissioned by Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh. This included work in the parkland and some garden buildings which can be seen today.


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Uppark in early 18th century by Jan Kip and in 2006 following restoration


Repton worked closely with the architect John Nash (1752-1835) until their friendship curtailed by an argument and their professional ties were broken. Nash went on to secure the commission to design the Royal Pavilion  and gardens at Brighton for the Prince Regent, built from 1815 to 1822, despite the fact that Repton had produced a Red Book with proposals for an Indian-style Pavilion and gardens in 1805.

Nash's gardens have recently been restored to reveal his picturesque layout of serpentine walks and drives, shrubberies and open lawns dotted with trees.


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© Cathy Cox       © Virginia Hinze © Virginia Hinze
Royal Pavilion Gardens - Brighton