Brown was here

Newton House, Dinefwr Park, as seen from the newly reopened Brown Walk. ©National Trust

The team on the Dinefwr Park estate, Carmarthenshire, has just opened up one of the historic park walks originally created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The walk was officially reopened by Lord Dynevor on 22 October, the first day of the National Trust’s Walking Festival.

Newton House in its Brownian landscape. ©NTPL/David Noton

There had been guided tours along the walk before, but National Trust warden Wyn Davies has made it more accessible to the public, marking the route clearly and commissioning tree surgeons to remove potentially unsafe branches.

Dinefwr Park in an 1822 print after J.P. Neale, showing the maturing of Brown's planting scheme.

Capability Brown was invited to Dinefwr by George Rice, whose marriage to heiress Cecil Talbot enabled him to make improvements to the estate.

Evidence of recent replanting work at Dinefwr Park. ©NTPL/David Noton

Brown first visited Dinefwr in 1775 and continued to advise on the park until 1783. He generally worked as what we would now call a ‘consultant’, assessing the ‘capabilities’ of a landscape, advising the owner and recommending local contractors capable of carrying out the work.

The east front of Newton House, with its deliberately designed backdrop of trees. ©NTPL/John Hammond

A record of ‘Mr Brown’s Directions’, dated May 1776, has recently been rediscovered in Lord Dynevor’s archive. The walk, which is just over a mile in length, was designed as a circular route around Newton House, with carefully composed planting and framed views.

Previous posts about Dinefwr Park and its owners can be seen here.

7 Responses to “Brown was here”

  1. Parnassus Says:

    I think that the earlier incarnation of Newtown House, as shown in the 1822 print, better suits Brown’s landscape, although as Victorianizations go, this one is not too extreme.

    Brown’s vision of nature is endlessly fascinating. I have just noticed in the wonderful David Noton photo how the patches of trees and lawn echo the patterns in the patches of cloud and blue sky.
    –Road to Parnassus

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes David Noton was clearly ‘improving’ the landscape even further by choosing the right moment to take his photograph – a nice example of a ‘reproduction’ becoming a ‘work of art’ in itself.

    It also reminds one of Robert Adam, with his carpet designs that often echoed his celining designs.

    And this is pure speculation, but one could certainly imagine Brown himself being inspired by cloudscapes and echoing them in his designs, especially as he was outdoors and on the road so much. And of course he deliberately used sheets of water for their sky-reflecting qualities…

  3. Christopher Gallagher Says:

    Hi Emile,
    Good to see Lancelot Brown getting some air time. Your readers might be interested to know that Jane Brown has recently published a new study of the great man’s life and works.

    You mention that Brown continued to advise at Dinefwr until 1793. I assume you mean 1783, which was the year of his death? It is interesting in any case that he advised over such an extended period, but it would be even more exciting, especially as we approach Halloween, to learn this had continued from beyond the grave.

    A nice observation from Parnassus above. Neale’s earlier view uses the big tree in the mid-left of the image to balance the house and woodland beyond, and David Noton does a similar thing with the woodland and shade on the left side of his image – a difficult balancing act to pull off when the woodland bleeds right up to the picture edge.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks for correcting that typo Chris – and in a certain kind of way of course his work did continue to mature and change after his death :)

    And isn’t it interesting how present-day photographers consciously or unconsciously continue to use those age-old Claudeian and Poussinesque framing and composition devices?

  5. janetgordon Says:

    Thank you for helping to flesh out Brown’s work in my mind. Of course, have heard of Brown all my life, but living on the Canadian fringe of Eastern North America, had no opportunity to explore the vast scale of his landscapes. Any 18th and early 19th century landscaping at ‘big houses’ here was of a much smaller scale; and much of it has been lost, such as Prince Edward, Duke of Kent’s estate outside of Halifax where he installed his morganatic spouse before being forced to return to Britain, marry correctly and father the future Queen Victoria. Thank you for many informative and engaging posts, I look forward to each fresh one.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Janet, thank you. I wasn’t aware of that episode of Regency-period history in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Hemlock Ravine and the Rotunda, if I have Googled it correctly). We have similar problems here, though, in that for some reason historic gardens refuse to stop growing and changing :)

  7. HRH The Duchess of State Says:

    What an idilic and beautiful setting. Most enjoyable read.

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