The gardens at Himley Hall in Staffordshire were extended by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown for James Ward, Viscount Dudley and Ward in the 1770s. Brown is perhaps the best known and most successful practitioner of the English landscape garden movement, which sought to transform the parks and grounds of country estates into natural-looking landscapes through the introduction of lakes, trees and parkland in place of more formal features.
The view in this King’s Topographical Collection print is typical of the naturalistic type of scene that Brown fashioned throughout the English countryside. In the foreground is the man-made lake (the ‘Great Pool’) that was created by the construction of a dam to the west of the park, and rising behind the house is ‘The Hill’, a wooded area in which Brown laid out a network of paths. The absence from the print of any people save for the distant figures on horseback and the implication of a human presence in the form of the boat on the lake, and the proliferation of deer on the lawn, are emblematic of Brown's attempts to imitate nature.
Himley was one of the many estates where Brown was assisted by John Spyers, whose primary role was as a surveyor. Spyers spent about 14 days at Himley in September and October 1774. His plan of the grounds, which is typical of his contribution to Brown’s practice, survives in the Dudley Archives.