Norfolk is a county for the conservative, it is a quiet place and the Norfolk people live contentedly there, with their ancient traditions of smuggling and wrecking. With a cutlass in one hand and a twinkling light in the other, and their one good eye always a-roving, they keep a watch for the lost sailors whom they may lure to destruction on the sandy wastes of the Wash.

Thus did Norfolk come to mind as I sought a response to a question from Dr F of Sussex: ‘what do you think of Sarah Rutherford’s new book Capability Brown and his Landscape Gardens?’ – and I must say that although I am yet to slide the volume onto the round table at the Tatler’s Waste-bin for the close scrutiny of my friends, I think it is good, I think it will do a good job. For Sarah hails from Buckinghamshire, and if Norfolk is a fierce stronghold for its own queer and querulous reading of the work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, then Buckinghamshire is so rubbed with establishment polish that even the most radical ideas can be proposed and still appear mainstream and reasonable, and Sarah Rutherford’s is a radical book.

I put it to the Bar that rather than isolating her book from its context, it would be of interest to plot the progress of enlightened thought over the last five years by recording first the traditional view, as put forward by the great Dorothy Stroud, then the Norfolk academical, and then Sarah’s Buckinghamshire position, before finally sketching the outcomes that the Brown Advisor would like to bring off during this tercentenary year. This then will be the first of two or three notes arising from Rutherford’s fine book. Here we may be find an answer to the question – how is the tercentenary treating you? –  and here finally are a couple of pointers to our direction of travel.

Stroud attributed 210 sites to Brown

Cautious Norfolk was prepared to verify only 180: Sarah Rutherford however has pushed that up to 250 but:  The Brown Advisor says that this is not enough, we have pushed the list up to over 260, but it would be a fine thing to verify a tercentennial 300 landscapes by Brown… indeed we might find them if we could only find better records of the town houses where he worked.

Note: See our editor’s list of attributions on http://johnphibbs.uk/.

Stroud and Historic England confined their interest to Brown’s parks and gardens

Norfolk placed the landscape park at the heart of Brown’s work: but bravo for Dr R. She has insisted on the importance of those ridings of Brown’s that ran far beyond the park and are currently completely unprotected: The Brown Advisor ( notes 2, 9, 11, etc., etc.) would like to find wide acceptance for the idea that most of the acreage over which Brown held sway lay outside the parkland and that he grew less and less interested in parks as his career progressed.