Capability Brown

Capability Brown 300 exhibition at Syon Park July 2016

Design work by Ian Estevens 

Well here we are in June and I must admit running a little behind from our original plan to be open for May, but on the plus side things are coming together quite smoothly. 

One of the reasons we have been delayed was that we had to wait for the roof to be installed. 

It's now in situ and looking great!

Here are some images of the space a few months ago.

And here is the brand new roof...

The seating has been removed the hanging baskets have been cleared and the walls are being built around the entire space to create an open light environment. 
The fence at the front entrance will be removed which will also help to create the illusion of space and the signage will be moved to the outside entrance. 

Brian kindly prepared a few samples for the walls, the idea is to keep it light by using a birch ply treated with Danish oil to help waterproof the surfaces and protect against rain. 
Although we have the roof the space is still partially open at two ends. 

The plinths will also be built using the same methods to create a clean contemporary feel to the exhibition. 

Plants are going into large wooden planters either side of the central space creating an opening for the title of the exhibition.

The walls have been completed and plinths planters are in position and whilst Ian and I are in the process of finalising the graphics there has been enough time to see how the space stands up to rainfall. 
With an exhibition partially exposed to the elements it's been slightly more challenging particularly when it comes to considering the placement and display of objects.

This was the space a week ago.. 

29th June 2016 
With two weeks to go we are finalising the design work and gathering the objects together to be displayed on to the plinths.
These are currently being divided into tools and plants. 
Every object selected has been carefully extracted from the original household vouchers Susan has been transcribing. 

It's surprising how many objects particularly the building materials such as nails and screws have remained much the same. The language may have changed slightly but I'm sure within the building trade nails are still referred to as 8d,10d,12d, 
As I found out last week this equates to the size of the nail. for example a 10d = 3''
The letter D is an abbreviation for a penny, but the D originally came from the old Roman coin the Denarius where carpentry nails were bought by the pennyweight. 

Here is an example of vellum parchment this was used for the original garden plan drawings. The receipts were written for 2 skins of vellum for plans
The skin used for Syon parks design work would have been calf and I managed to get hold of some remnants from a company called William Cowley in Buckinghamshire who have been making Vellum using traditional methods since 1870. 

Wednesday 6th July 2016
With one week to go until opening the install for all the graphics begun. It was a resonably early start to the day with fair weather making it easier for the everyone working on site that day.

All the plants were selected according to the original plant list for Syon that entire list can be seen around the edges of each planter. 

Monday 11th July 2016
With two days to go until opening the printers installing the graphics started their second day on site. We encountered a few technical issues the previous week which slowed us all down slightly, but we swiftly made it back on track and everything had been positioned onto the walls by 1.30pm leaving myself and Topher to finish the final planting and positioning of artefacts. 

As it would have been impossible to include all the plants and tools that were originally used or planted. 
Small transparent containers filled with seeds give a more rounded idea of the range of flowers, herbs and vegetables that were documented on the receipts. 

These include onions, spinach, red and white clover, spring bulbs, carrots, mustard cress. 

Here's an example of one voucher invoiced to the Earl of Northumberland in 1756 for garden tools and equiptment.

Image belongs to the Northumberland Estate

The people and workers plinth in progress showing tools plant seeds and other materials such as hay seed, dung and brick. 

The exhibition officially opened on Thursday 14th July to the public and Syon visitors and will continue until the house and garden closes for the winter season on Sunday 30th October 2016. 


You will be able to visit the exhibition without having to pay to go into the house and garden. This was something Susan and I felt was really important for it to be open and available to everyone. Whether you are an avid follower of Brown or a new convert to his work.  

I'd like to say a big thank you to:
Susan Darling 
Ian Estevens 
Topher Martyn 
Brian and his team at Syon Park 

It's been a real collaborative process from start to finish. 

Capability Brown at Syon.

This project has been brewing for quite a while now, When I think back It maybe approaching nearly two years. 

For many keen gardeners and garden lovers 2016 marks the 300th birthday of Lancelot Capability Brown. 

A figure in garden history that really changed the English landscape from highly formal structured garden spaces we expect to see during the 16th-17th centuries. 
To open expansive landscapes or parklands that emerged during the 18th century and still remain across many sites today. 

Browns style is instantly recognisable some fine examples such as Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Compton Verney in Warwickshire, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire are the ones many of us will be familiar with. 

 The garden I'm going to be talking about is Syon Park. It sits directly opposite Kew Gardens It's one of Browns smaller garden spaces and lesser known but one of the best preserved.

Back in 2014 I met Susan Darling a garden historian whilst I was busily working on my exhibition at Siobhan Davies Dance. 

During this time we started discussing Brown 2016 as Susan was in the process of researching Capability Brown's garden at Syon. 
Susan was and still is methodically working through the archives on the Northumberland estate in Alnwick. Including the original receipts from the build and construction of the garden. Revealing an enormous amount information that wasn't formally known. 

That's one of the reasons Syon Park was so keen to host an exhibition this year.

Over the past year or so we have been exploring how this body of research could be presented in the form of an exhibition. 

Susan would have always been a key figure in this as the entire exhibition has come about from her own research. 
The uncertainty was my involvement and whether the initial ideas for this would be suitable.

In December 2015 after previous meetings, site visits and conversations, We proposed our ideas where a more formal presentation was arranged at Syon Park with head gardener Topher Martyn. 
From there on in we have started work to open the exhibition in May 2016. Exact dates are to be confirmed but I will be updating our work in progress over the next couple of months.

Follow the link below for more information about Brown and Syon and Susan's article written for the London Gardens Trust. 

Changing the Landscape: Capability Brown at Syon. 

Topher Martyn Head Gardener 
Susan Darling Garden Historian and researcher 
Kim Norton Curator and design
Ian Estevens Exhibition design

Garden tour of Syon Park

On Wednesday afternoon I was very lucky to be able to go on a garden tour of Syon Park. One of Capability Brown's landscape gardens and with the 300th year birth of Brown next year in 2016 this garden will most likely be on the receiving end of more attention.

The garden has two lakes the first one we encountered snakes through the landscape. There are two garden spaces essentially one is open to the public the other is private we were fortunate to be able walk both of them. 

Here we began to see the typical open expansive landscape Brown is celebrated for.
A parkland vista where every angle was carefully considered and constructed to create a line of vision. Of course not all of the original intended views still exist today. Trees have grown other buildings have been built and some pathways may have changed slightly in two and a half centuries. However, it still remains a wonderful legacy and example of Brown's work. 

 A fallen Oak tree has been left marks the different feel in the the second part of the garden. The great element of this portion of the gardens that it remains less manicured, the grasses are longer there is a distinct feel of the english meadow and openness. 

The second lake where the cow's are grazing across the lake side.

Here are two images of the HaHa the original brick construction dividing the land at two different levels. The HaHa historically came about the keep the grazing cattle from coming too far in land.

For next years celebrations more information can be found at outlining events across the country to mark the birth  of Lancelot Brown.