A whole raft of questions have been asked of Brown’s associates, people like Samuel Lapidge and Benjamin Read, who acted as foremen for the master-gardener Capability Brown on many of his landscapes. Here are a few of them.
Were these men only ordinary? And how did he communicate with them? There must have been letters – weekly? – perhaps more often. We know Brown was sending them large round-number sums of sterling in monthly cheques. He must have been given some idea of what it was being spent on. So why don’t we have a single set of letters for a single one of the places where he worked? Finding a bundle would be great, but working out why we can’t find a bundle – that’s not to be sniffed at either.
Then there’s the incidence of round-number sums. Take William Ireland for instance, he’s at it steadily from the end of 1768 until Brown’s death, taking from £20.00 to £100.00 per month without much sign of a break, but we know that he’s working all over the place: Burghley, Luton Hoo, Trentham, so when did he take a holiday? Where did he stay? How did these foremen operate?
And how did they manage to produce such consistent work? Were there Christmas parties at Brown’s place? What about team building? Did they take refresher courses in corporate strategy? Was there a hierarchy of foremen?
None of these questions yet have answers, yet there was an existing career-path through foreman to independent contractor: the Royal Gardener, George London, was using foremen at the beginning of the century, men with strange names like Stephen Switzer and Tilleman Bobart, both of whom went on to great things, as it is said – and we don’t know much about G.London’s way of working with them either.