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Capital Capability

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There is little doubt, even if Horace Walpole jokingly described his works as ‘Home-Brewed Rivers with a Spade and a Watering-pot’, that Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783) took inspiration from living alongside the River Thames.

An illustrated talk by Steffie Shields at the Chiswick Pier House on Tuesday 27th September, will reveal the driven polymath behind the famous nickname and explore both Brown’s artistic legacy and his pioneering work with water in the landscape.

Brown set up a professional architectural and land improvement practice a stone’s throw from the leading nurseries and market gardens in West London. And as Royal Gardener, he advised admirals and prime ministers, and charmed ‘blue-stocking’ ladies with his wit, before galloping hundreds of miles to inspect pumping engine parts and stink piles, with oak acorns and beechnuts in his pockets. Sharing some surprising, little known stories about his life and works around London and up and down river, (Brown worked in 27 riparian London boroughs), Steffie will address a key question in everyone's minds "How did Brown do it?"

Steffie Shields is a professional garden photographer, writer, and historic landscape consultant. Having researched ‘Capability’ Brown for over twenty-five years, she has now compiled a photographic archive of over 200 attributed works. Her photographic awards include several commendations in the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition. She has been a Cambridge tutor (since 2007) and advisor to the Capability Brown Tercentenary Festival and to Alan Titchmarsh’s TV series ‘Brown at Belvoir’ (2015). Recent Chairman of the Association of Gardens Trusts (AGT) now a Vice-President of The Gardens Trust, she curated a contemporary photography London exhibition ‘Lenses on a Landscape Genius – Lancelot Capability Brown’ at the Building Centre this summer to convey Brown’s legacy to a wider audience.