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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!

About 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.

The Orangery

The Orangery is a fabulous example of an 18th century hothouse. Once used for growing exotic fruits for the Constable family's dining table, it now makes a fantastic spot for picnics, relaxing in the sunshine and family games on the lawn.

History of The Orangery

The Orangery was completed to the designs of Thomas Atkinson with artificial stone ornament supplied by Mrs Eleanor Coade (1733-1821) in 1782 at a cost of £83-18s-7d. The Coadestone comprises numerous acanthus leaves on the frieze, decorative and figurative plaques on the façade, together with a series of figures, urns and pineapples on the parapet. Restoration of the Orangery building and its important collection of sculptural ornament was completed in 2013.

The Gardens

The Gardens may be small, but they are tenderly cared for by our Grounds and Parkland Officer and team of hard-working volunteers.

History of the Gardens

There is early evidence of formal gardens close to the house in a document of 1610, when the Dowager Lady Margaret Constable was given access to ‘two litle gardens adjoyneinge upon and lieing near unto the Northe Tower and one parcell of ground called North garth adjoyn. upon the aforesaid gardens.’

In 1715 considerable work was undertaken for William, 4th Viscount Dunbar in levelling land for new gardens. It seems likely that a lawn was created at this time on the west front, and to the north a grove containing a geometrical arrangement of paths.