On 29th May 2018 a memorial to the famous landscape gardener and architect Lancelot Capability Brown was unveiled at Westminster Abbey. The lead cistern fountain is in the centre of the main cloister. It was set up to mark the tercentenary of his birth. The cistern was designed by Ptolemy Dean assisted by Alan Titchmarsh and made by Brian Turner.
Around the sides of the cistern in several panels is a quote from Horace Walpole:
WITH ONE LOST PARADISE THE NAME
OF OUR FIRST ANCESTOR IS STAINED;
BROWN SHALL ENJOY UNSULLIED FAME
FOR SO MANY A PARADISE REGAINED.
With the inscription:
1716 1783 LANCELOT CAPABILITY BROWN.
HE SOUGHT AN IMAGE OF HEAVEN.
On the wall of the cloister opposite the Chapter House entrance is a brass dedication plaque.
Brown was baptised in 1716 in Northumberland and was a son of yeoman farmer William Brown. His first job was at nearby Kirkharle, home of Sir William Loraine. In 1741 he became head gardener at Stowe in Buckinghamshire, executing landscape and architectural works. He took on various commissions including Croome Court in Worcestershire, Petworth House in Sussex, Warwick Castle and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Overall he designed around 170 parks and gardens. His wealth and reputation grew and he acquired the nickname Capability from his habit of referring to the capabilities of the places where he worked. Later he was Master Gardener at Hampton Court and Richmond.
In 1744 he married Bridge Wayet and they had two daughters and three sons who survived infancy. Son Lancelot became a Member of Parliament and John rose to be an Admiral in the Navy. Daughter Bridget married architect Henry Holland.
Lancelot died on 6th February 1783 and is buried at Fenstanton, his estate in Huntingdon.
Capability Brown by D. Stroud, revised edition 1984
This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library
Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster