The Repton Gazette and Brown Advisor

300 Frequently Asked Questions about Capability Brown, and a further 200 about Humphry Repton

218: What was William Emes?

Recently met, a lady who remains anonymous, asked me that just man, Capability Brown, did at Wimpole.

Well we know he built the tower, but what else did he do for the considerable sum of £3,000 that he was paid? The question led me in a gross non sequitur to speculate that William Emes (who followed Brown at Wimpole, as he did at Tixall, Ingestre, Eaton and no doubt others) might have been hired not to redraw Brown’s design at Wimpole, but to finish off the great man’s plan. Perhaps Emes, described by the Cliffords, father and son, as a ‘pupil’, and elsewhere as a ‘follower’ of Brown, was literally that, as well as cheaper or less busy.

This line of thinking springs from a consideration of Brown’s famous plan for Wimpole, which stops suddenly and without a border, just north of the house. The plan shows that the old kitchen garden, on the north side of the house, was to be removed. What it does not show is where Brown proposed to move it to. The site eventually chosen is radical but within easy reach of the farm and the service area. An alternative might perhaps have been found in the vicinity of the present car parks, at the back of Kendal’s stables. At any rate, to knit the themes of Emes together with those of Brown, the kitchen garden is now attributed to Emes and was indeed built by Emes. However its site is off the edge of Brown’s plan anyway – in short before we attribute the siting of the kitchen garden to Emes should we not learn where Brown had planned to put it?

And before we set up Emes as an independent designer with a fresh design at Wimpole, should we not look at other instances where a man was employed independently to execute Brown’s designs?

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4 Comments

  1. paul stamper

    Reinforces how sad it is that the late Keith Goodway never wrote the book on Emes he should have. I was urging it from the time I met him in the later 80s, when I was working on Badger Dingle, but he never showed any great inclination. I think his notes are safe though.

    • The Brown Advisor

      I couldn’t agree more. One only hopes that his research will be commemorated with a publication. The difficulty lies in persuading a publisher that it might be a commercial proposition, but perhaps the tercentenary will help to make such a book viable. Keith was the kindest and most helpful of men, never swerving into speculation, but all the same open-minded. I remember a happy evening trying very earnestly to persuade him that the Privy Garden at Hampton Court was William III’s toilet – there are so many other conversations I might have had, but never did.

  2. Jeremy Milln

    Brown at Wimpole was more interested in the park and its northern extension in 1767 than in removing Bridgeman’s walled garden which had quite recently been much improved by Greening (1752-4) with new hot walls, glasshouses, fruit planting etc. Your Wimpole Garden Survey (1980) p. 25 observes that the Greening garden seems to have been marked on the estate plan of c. 1776 (though scratched out later) and there are accounts of builders’ work to this walled garden in 1782-3. It was not until 1790 that Emes plans Wimpole’s new walled garden uninfluenced, I think, by what Brown might have done for the previous Earl Hardwicke. By the time of its construction in 1792 Soane had entered the equation for as the walled garden was moved, so was the Home Farm. They went together.

    Incidentally I showed the plan of 1771 Emes did for Thos Anson at Oakedge to Keith Goodway while he was researching Emes at Sandon next door. He was delighted and I’d hoped it might have proved a catalyst.

    • The Brown Advisor

      Given that Brown left the Bridgeman/Greening garden off his plan, we may assume that he intended to move it. The Brown Advisor only asks whither it was then bound. The Oakedge plan was a wonderful discovery and all credit to you for showing it to Keith.

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By John Phibbs