Not Just Green Spaces: 5 Buildings Designed by Capability Brown

His visionary landscape designs brought Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown lasting fame, punctuating the natural environment to this day with serpentine rivers, rich woodland and palatial views. But what many people forget about Capability Brown, is that he also designed buildings and monuments within his commissioned landscapes. Surviving examples are rare and often protected by listing.

Here are 5 of the structures he is less famous for.

The Burton Pynsent Column, Somerset

© Copyright Ken Grainger

Sometimes referred to as the Cider Monument, the 140ft column stands in dedication to the memory of Sir William Pynsent.  Pynsent was a successful businessman in the Somerset cider trade, and owner of a sizable estate. When in 1763, the government of the time were considering putting a higher tax on cider, William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham came to the rescue and strongly opposed the proposal. Pynsent was so thrilled by this support that upon his death, and to his family’s horror, he bequeathed his entire estate to the Earl. Pitt commissioned Capability Brown to design the Grade I listed column, and the  Grade II listed surrounding landscape in homage to its generous benefactor.

Corsham’ s Gothic Bath House, Wiltshire

© Copyright Paul Brooker

As well as ‘naturalising’ the grounds and remodelling the house of former Crown Estate, Brown also designed the Grade I listed gothic bath house of Corsham Court. The health fad of the late 18th century, said to increase life expectancy, prescribed a cold regime: cold baths, cooling food, spending time outdoors and exercise. Purpose-built bath houses were often situated away from the main property, close to water source,

Scampton Bridge Building, North Yorkshire

© Copyright Pauline E

Scampston Hall and park in North Yorkshire is a grand stately home and gardens, built in the late 1600s. In the late 18th century it’s then owner firstly employed garden designer Charles Bridgeman, and then Capability Brown to landscape the park. As well as installing a serpentine lake, Brown also designed the iconic feature of the Bridge Building, which cleverly conceals the end of a sheet of water and closes the view. It is Grade II* listed.

Stowe’s Lord Cobham’s Column, Buckinghamshire

geograph-2461979-by-Trevor-Rickard - Stowe Pillar
© Copyright Trevor Rickard

Built in commemoration of his service to his country as soldier and statesman, and commissioned by his wife, the 115ft tall octagonal column features a statue of Lord Cobham depicted in Roman armour. The Grade I listed statue is placed atop a belvedere, a platform reached via a spiral staircase and offering spectacular views of the gardens at Stowe.

Coombe Abbey’s Menagerie and Farm Buildings, Warwickshire

Combe park menagerie (c) Coventry City Council
© Coventry City Council

In 1770, Brown was given full artistic licence by the Earl of Craven to lay the landscape of Coombe Abbey. The menagerie building is hidden in woodland, across the serpentine lake which was a familiar feature in Brown’s designs. The central building was designed for the owner and his guests to view the menagerie’s exotic animal collection in comfort. After sadly falling into disrepair, the Grade II listed building was recently restored, and is now a private residence.


Do you know of other Capability Brown designed structures? Tell us your favourites.

If you have photographs or knowledge about Capability Brown listed structures and landscapes we’d love to hear from you. Our Enriching the List project gives you the chance to share images, knowledge and secrets of England’s special places, capturing them for future generations. Learn more and help us #ListEngland 

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Further Reading

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