Our Humphry Repton landscapes

A view across Sheringham Park, Norfolk

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Humphry Repton, one of Britain’s best-loved landscape designers. Repton helped shape landscapes where the barriers between gardens and parks were broken down; estates that combine the polished look of ‘Capability’ Brown with the more naturalistic and dramatic landscapes of the Picturesque Movement.

The National Trust looks after many parks and gardens influenced by Repton including Sheringham Park, Norfolk, which he described as his ‘most favourite work.’

Repton was a skilled water colour painter, each commission was accompanied by one of his ingenious 'red books' to illustrate his proposal. In total he produced nine of his famous Red Books at our places.

Here are some of our best places to see Repton’s work:

Cows grazing in front of Sheringham Hall, Norfolk

Sheringham Park, Norfolk 

Using the rolling landscape of the park, Repton framed views of the north Norfolk coastline which are still enjoyed by thousands of visitors today. Successive generations of the Upcher family used his 1812 design as a blueprint for the management and enhancement of the estate and the last major Repton intervention ‘the temple’ was not built until 1975. The Sheringham Red Book remains our key guide to the management and care of the park to this day.

View of the front of the Mansion at Attingham Park

Attingham, Shropshire 

When the 2nd Lord Berwick inherited Attingham, he hired Repton to enhance the parkland. Repton's aim was to create a natural landscape around the mansion with views of the Shropshire Hills and the Wrekin. Unfortunately, after Repton's work was finished, the family went bankrupt, and no further work to the parkland followed. Fortunately, for visitors today this has made Attingham's Repton landscape one of the most historically important in Britain, as it has not been altered by new additions or designers.

Ashridge Estate in autumn

Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire 

Repton’s 1813 design for the Ashridge Estate had to complement the magnificent Palace of Ashridge House and earlier work by ‘Capability’ Brown. In what would be one of his final designs, Repton proposed 15 different kinds of gardens, including a winter garden, Monk’s garden, rosary and American garden. Today the house and gardens at Ashridge are privately owned but the National Trust cares for a large area of the wider park.

View of Uppark House from dairy.

Uppark, Sussex 

Uppark on the South Downs is another property where Repton followed ‘Capability’ Brown. His Red Book was produced in 1810 and is unusual in presenting designs for the interior of the house as well as for the park. Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh asked Repton to redesign the dining room and adjacent server. His stained glass window, lit by lamps, can still be seen today.

Antony dovecote surrounded by late spring green

Antony, Cornwall 

Completed in 1792, Antony is one of several Repton sites on the Tamar in Cornwall. It is still home to the Carew Pole family who commissioned Repton to landscape the grounds. The advice he provided on woodland planting was followed closely and can still be seen.

View of the mansion at Plas Newydd with the Menai Strait in the background

Plas Newydd, Anglesey 

In 1799, Repton completed a commission at Plas Newydd, home of the Marquess of Anglesey, but only the text of the Red Book survives. He recommended redesigning the drive and planting more trees between the stables and the house. He also suggested the construction of a greenhouse-come-pavilion, a hexagonal structure with removable sides, a sketch of which he reproduced in Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803).

A long view of the house and garden at Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Hatchlands, Surrey 

Repton produced his plans for Hatchlands Park in Guildford in 1800. They included the introduction of pleasure grounds, planting to screen the road and changes to the approach road. The layout of the garden and the park remains true to the original design.

Rear view of Wimpole Hall

Wimpole, Cambridgeshire 

The owners of the Wimpole Estate employed a succession of landscape gardeners to ‘improve’ their estate including Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Repton presented his Red Book for Earl Harwicke in 1801 in which he recommended removing trees to reveal the beauty of the house and to make the estate appear more wooded.

Other connections we have to Repton

Sheffield Park, East Sussex

Repton visited Sheffield Park several times in 1789 and again in 1790. We don’t know if a Red Book was produced but it is thought that his recommendations were concentrated near the house where he created a series of four small lakes on the site of what is known today as the ‘First Lake’.

West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire

Repton was commissioned to produce designs for John Dashwood King at West Wycombe Park sometime before 1796. He included sketches and extracts from his recommendations in Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening in which he referred to the production of a Red Book.

A watercolour from Humphry Repton's proposed series of designs to 'improve' the landscape surrounding Attingham Hall c.1798
A page from Humphry Repton's Red Book of Attingham showing the Mansion and Tern Bridge
A watercolour from Humphry Repton's proposed series of designs to 'improve' the landscape surrounding Attingham Hall c.1798

Blickling, Norfolk

Lady Suffield, of Blickling, approached Repton for advice but there is no evidence that this was formally given. Repton did paint ‘Lady’s Cottage in the Great Wood’ on the estate (c. 1780 one of his earliest known watercolours) and his son John Adey is known to have provided designs for flower beds and garden structures.

Dyrham Park, Bath & Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire

Repton refers to Dyrham Park in Observations and a letter and design for a pavilion can be found in Gloucestershire Record Office. A letter from Repton to his son William dated 1809 suggests he carried out work at Woodchester Park for Lord Ducie.
 
Felbrigg, Norfolk

Repton regularly used the library at Felbrigg when he lived at nearby Sustead. The owner of the estate (and Repton’s landlord) William Windham supported Repton’s studies of agriculture and botany, and provided him with introductions to learned men including Sir Joseph Banks, some of which helped Repton to secure his first commissions. He also completed sketches of the estate.

There is no paper evidence of Repton ever having completed design work at Felbrigg but we do know that significant landscaping, ‘Reptonian’ in character, was carried out on the estate during Repton’s time.

Possible connections

Repton completed sketches of a number of other properties for publication in Peacock’s Polite Repository, a yearly almanac come diary with scenic engravings: Shute Barton (primarily a holiday cottage), The Weir in Herefordshire, Knole in Kent, Chastleton in Oxfordshire and Wakehurst Place in Sussex. The sketches may be an indication that he carried out work but we don’t have any further evidence.

A portrait of Humphry Repton

Humphry Repton: the first landscape gardener 

Repton, the original landscape gardener, brought his unique design style to the gardens and parks at more than 20 of our places. As a skilled water colour painter, each commission was accompanied by one of his ingenious 'red books' to illustrate his proposal.