A hunting metaphor is suited to Mr F, who springs to horse in Melton Mowbray, ever-ready to pursue his quarry over no matter how many years and over no matter how unfortunate a country. Thus I have never expected to find a quick result to his researches into the gardener, Adam Mickle who appears to have been working with James Wyatt in 1799.
His inquiry however is fruitfully met with one from Mrs F of Philadelphia (no relation) who asks, as so many have before, what sort of man Brown was.
I find the link in the Duke of Beaufort’s letter of 1799 to the Duke of Rutland
‘I agree with you that the Person who is to lay it out ought to see it at this time of the year when it is in the Heighth of Beauty. The Person I mention’d to you who was ambitious of laying out the grounds is Mr Mickle who has done some things for me but I can not at present recollect where he lives but Coln. Thoroton knows as he has employd him in laying out the grounds round his new house. I believe I may venture to say that he is an honest man but rather a rough diamond. He was born at Badminton as his Father was Gardner there and I make no doubt that he would be so proud of being imployd in your Service that he will use his utmost endeavours to do his best to put the old Place in the greatest advantage.’
The Duke clearly refers here to the younger Adam Mickle, whose father had the same name. Capability Brown seems to have picked up AM senior at Badminton in 1757 and brought him onto his staff. He began to pay his son from around 1768. If AM junior worked at Badminton for the Duke of Beaufort then this may have been as an apprentice between 1757 and 1768, which implies that he must have been born soon after his father arrived at Badminton in 1743.
At any rate the Duke’s letter put me in mind of Mrs F’s question in his phrase: ‘he is an honest man but rather a rough diamond’. If it was important for landscape gardeners to appear as gentlemen, then Adam Mickle junior was well-placed, at Badminton and in the care of his father, to acquire polish. If on the other hand it was more important to be honest, and if roughness and plain-speaking betokened honesty, then one can understand why Adam Mickle may have been educated as he was. This was a lesson that Brown, though hardly to be X-rated himself, might have taught.
Adam Mickle junior of course went on to work for Brown at Sandbeck, and four of his children were baptised in the parish.
The Duke’s Coln. Thoroton, was I think Colonel Thornton at Thornville-Royal, now known as Allerton Castle, Yorkshire, whose house had been described as ‘an elegant new built mansion’ in 1791. Mickle’s work there has occasionally been mistaken for Brown’s – which brings this note to a pleasing end.