Capability Brown Parkland

Burton Constable Hall is surrounded by 330 acres of stunning historic grade II* listed parkland - the best documented example of a landscape worked by Capability Brown!

History of the parkland

Ridge and furrow survives in several areas of the park as testimony to the medieval open field system that operated before the deer park was created in 1517. A survey carried out in 1621 by William Senior of Hull indicates that by then the park was made up of a series of enclosures with the main entrance to the house from the east, approached by a walk or avenue. The ancient moat stretched around two sides of the hall, whilst some way to the west there were three long narrow fishponds.

During the eighteenth century, William Constable (1721-1791) spent a fortune remodelling his house and park, employing some of the finest architects and craftsmen of the day. Following William's return from his Grand Tour in 1771, he turned his attention to the park and from 1772 employed Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to oversee the transformation of Burton Constable's landscape, which resulted in Brown making a total of eight journeys to Burton Constable between 1772 and 1782. His visits typically took place in the Autumn and for each encounter the house steward recorded the minutes of the meetings under the heading 'Hints from Mr. Brown' or 'Mr. Brown's Directions'. The survival of these minutes, alongside original landscape designs and sketches, provide a rare and wonderful insight into how Capability Brown executed his grand schemes.

Read Mr. Brown's Directions online

Read Capability Brown's Account Book online

Brown's scheme at Burton Constable involved joining up the Elizabethan fishponds to create two serpentine lakes separated by a dam-cum-bridge. In order to further enliven the virtually flat landscape, Brown planted strategically-placed tree clumps, installed sunken fences and a ha-ha. This meant that visitors caught scenic glimpses of the house and stable block as they approached through the park across Brown's new bridge, before eventually sweeping round to the main entrance door on the east front. Brown was also responsible for the re-ordering of the south courtyard service buildings at Burton Constable in the 1770s. Here he designed a curtain wall terminating in castellated towers, behind which stood coal bunkers, a brewhouse, slaughterhouse, dairy, bakery and workshops.

Today the Hall and its surrounding 330 acres of parkland are owned by a charity whose mission is to safeguard the important heritage of Burton Constable for future generations. Since 1999 a comprehensive programme of parkland restoration has been in place funded through Natural England's Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This has involved planting thousands of trees to recreate the eighteenth and nineteenth-century clumps, and replenishing the avenues to the south and west of the house. Hedges, sunk fences and the surviving ha-ha have been restored, as have various built features including Brown's bridge. The pasture continues to be managed without the use of fertilisers in order to encourage a diversity of plant species together with animal and bird life. The park is grazed by a variety of rare-breed cattle and sheep - which add a final touch to Brown's beautiful landscape.

Parkland Tours for Groups

Group visitors wanting to explore Brown's stunning parkland with one of our expert guides can book a 'Capability Brown's Parkland' tour, prices start at £8.50 per person. Click here for more details and to book.

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Did you know?
Afternoon tea was created by the Duchess of Bedford in the late 18th century. She invited friends to join her for an afternoon meal of small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, sweets and, of course, tea. The practice was so popular that it was quickly adopted by other social hostesses 
Over 80 different species of birds have been spotted at Burton Constable, from the smallest British bird, the Goldcrest, to large birds of prey such as Buzzards and Barn Owls

The Burton Constable Whale is featured in Herman Melville's famous novel Moby Dick. 

Today the Burton Constable Whale is nicknamed 'Constable Moby'

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