The question comes from Mr M of Lechlade, known as the Professor for his habit of melting into thin air when finding himself to be the audience of discussions in which he has no interest: was Capability Brown a cricketer?

I doubt Mr M asks whether he was to be found in a deck-chair, quaffing from a can of XXXX. Let us rather suppose that we are asked whether Brown made cricket pitches? In fact I would rather reply to Mr M if he were asking whether Brown made lawns that were level enough to play cricket on, for we may be confident that he did, and that generally these lawns were in front of the big house, the better for his clients and their guests to watch the sport. I remember being told, when I was first mowing myself that, ‘an inch at the bottom is worth six at the top’ and it must be the case that most of the grass is in the first inch or so of lawn. For that reason Brown will have expected some very close shaving.

Mr M’s however has arrived in good time to allow me to address it in tandem with a fresh question from Mrs L of Ilkley, who seeks an explanation for the word ‘boulingrin’ and asks if Brown himself designed bowling greens. Well he did Mrs L, and there is one on his plan for Hainton – if his clients fancied a bowling green, he was hardly the man to offer a refusal. However ‘boulingrin’ has its own interest. It was used to mean a fine lawn of bowling green standard, having been taken in to France from England because the French had no word themselves to describe the quality of fine grass that English gardeners could produce. The unusual pride that the English took in grass, its superiority, and the patriotism with which it was associated, seem all to be recognised in this rare coinage of 18th century Franglais.