Lancelot Brown (born c. 1715–16, baptised 30 August 1716 – 6 February 1783), more commonly known with the byname Capability Brown, was an English landscape architect. He is remembered as "the last of the great English 18th century artists to be accorded his due", and "England's greatest gardener". He designed over 170 parks, many of which still endure. He was nicknamed "Capability" because he would tell his clients that their property had "capability" for improvement. His influence was so great that the contributions to the English garden made by his predecessors Charles Bridgeman and William Kent are often overlooked; even Kent's apologist Horace Walpole allowed that Kent had been followed by "a very able master".
On 22 November 1744 he married in the Stowe parish church, Bridget Wayet (affectionately called Biddy) from Boston, Lincolnshire. Her father was an alderman and landowner while her family had surveyors and engineers among its members. They had seven children: Bridget in 1746, Lancelot (known as Lance), William (who died young), John in 1751, a son in 1754 who died short afterwards, Anne who was born and died and in 1756, Margaret (known as Peggy) in 1758 and Thomas in 1761.
In 1768 he purchased the manor of Fenstanton in Huntingdonshire in East Anglia for ₤13,000 from Lord Northampton. This came with two manor houses, two villages and 2,668 acres of land. The property stayed in the family until it was sold in lots in 1870s and 1880s. Ownership of the property allowed him to stand for and serve as High Sheriff of Huntingdonshire from 1770 to 1771.
He continued to work and travel until his sudden collapse and death on 6th February 1783, on the doorstep of his daughter Bridget Holland's house in Hertford Street, London while returning after a night out at Lord Coventry's. Horace Walpole wrote to Lady Ossory: "Your dryads must go into black gloves, Madam, their father-in-law, Lady Nature’s second husband, is dead!".
Brown was buried in the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul, the parish church of Brown's small estate at Fenstanton Manor.
He left an estate of approximately ₤40,000, which included property in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire.
His daughter Bridget married the architect Henry Holland. Brown sent two of his sons to Eton. One of them, Lancelot Brown the younger, became the MP for Huntingdon. His son John joined the Royal Navy and rose to become an admiral.
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