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Discovering the real Repton

A joint event between the Garden Museum and The Gardens Trust

County Gardens Trusts’ researchers from across the country will present short but in-depth talks on their research findings.  The programme is still coming together with some excellent speakers.

The final programme will be sent to delegates who have booked closer to the date but we’d like to tempt you with the following outline of the day:

We will begin from 10.30am with coffee and registration and a welcome by Christopher Woodward, the Museum’s Director.  The morning session, from 11.00am, will be chaired by Professor Stephen Daniels and the afternoon one, from 14.30, by Professor Tom Williamson. The order and number of presentations is subject to change. Guests will also be able to explore the Garden Museum’s exhibition Repton Revealed between the morning and afternoon sessions.

Speakers include:

Chris Sumner, London Parks and Gardens Trust: Repton  in London

Sarah Dickinson, Surrey Gardens Trust: Tracking down a Hardenberg Basket

Toby Parker, Hertfordshire Gardens Trust: Repton and the East India Company Patronage

Steffie Shields, Lincolnshire Gardens Trust: ‘Water in the valley’ – Normanton, re-discovering a Red Book

Patrick Eyres, Yorkshire Gardens Trust: Repton and the War Profiteers 

Judy Tarling, Sussex Gardens Trust: Repton and Friends at Heathfield Park

Glynis Shaw Welsh Historic Gardens Trust: Repton and John Nash as partners

Kate Harwood, Hertfordshire Gardens Trust: ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ – using research to save a Repton Landscape

Hugh Vaux Kent Gardens Trust: Montreal, a Repton landscape interpreted

Claire de Carle, Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust: ‘Parrots, Pineapples and Puckler’


Cost for the day:

Standard £78

The Gardens Trust Members £68

County Gardens Trusts £68

Garden Museum Friends £68

Talks in detail

  • Montreal: Repton Landscape Interpreted

    Montreal: Repton Landscape Interpreted

    This is the story of a house in Kent visited by Humphry Repton; a visit observed by two children aged 8 and 11. A Red Book, dated 1812 and now in the Canadian archives in Ottawa, which was produced only a few months after Repton’s accident. A Red Book which was apparently not acted on until nearly 20 years later.
    The main reason for this inaction was that the owner, William Pitt Amherst, was sent first to China as ambassador and then to India as governor general, taking his family with him. Avid travellers, the ladies of the family were keen naturalists and diarists, diaries that were passed around as an early form of social networking.
    Returning to England in 1829, Montreal was found to be too small. Models were built and drawings drawn by the children, now adults, who eventually left the architect, Thomas Atkinson, in peace to carry out the work. Not just the house but the garden was transformed. The driving force for the garden appears to have been Sarah Elizabeth, who as a child of 11 had watched Repton at work; a talented painter, trained in drawing by Peter de Wint, whose diaries and sketches are preserved in the archives at Claydon House. These together with a detailed estate map of 1834, four years after completion of the works, and a later photograph show how Repton’s ideas were eventually brought to life only to vanish again 100 years later under a housing estate.
    Despite this, enough evidence remains to allow a reconstruction of the house and landscape as well as the family connections to Knole, almost next door, and to St Johns in the Isle of Wight.

    This talk will be delivered by Hugh Vaux. Hugh is a trustee of Kent Gardens Trust and one of the research group volunteers who have been investigating parks and gardens, in conjunction with the local authorities over 10 years, in Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Medway, Margate and Dover. In 2016, the group published a book 'Capability Brown in Kent' and at present are working on a companion volume, 'Humphry Repton in Kent' to be published later this year.

  • Parrots, Pineapples and Puckler

    Parrots, Pineapples and Puckler

    In May 2017 a group from Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust visited three gardens closely connected with the work of Prince Hermann von Puckler- Muskau in Germany: Park Muskau, Babelsberg (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and Branitz. The visit coincided with the commencement of research into Humphry Repton’s contribution to around 15 historic gardens in the county. This paper will examine the link between the two landscape designers with particular reference to their designs at Babelsberg and Ashridge.
    Puckler was a huge admirer of English Landscape Design and in particular Repton. He first travelled to England in 1814-15 and whilst here visited over 50 gardens, including Stourhead, Longleat, Wilton and Blenheim. He was advised by Goethe to follow his interest in landscape design as he had a flair for it, however money was always a problem and he devised many schemes in which to secure finances to for fill his dreams at Muskau. It is not known whether he meet Repton during his visits to England, as these were towards the end of Repton’s life, however John Addy Repton did visit Muskau in 1822.
    In 1833 Puckler published Hints on Landscape Gardening which could be described as the Red Book for Muskau Park, he used flaps to illustrate before and after designs as Repton had done and much of his writing has similarities to that in Repton’s publications. The book helped to establish him as an expert in the field of landscape gardening, with the result that the Prince of Prussia, Wilhelm I asked him for advice about laying out his park at Babelsberg.

    This talk will be delivered by Claire de Carle MA. Claire is a garden historian, with a keen interest in horticulture, art and social history. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust Research & Recording project in 2013. She has published a book about Maud Grieve, the herbalist and articles about her work into little known gardens. She also lectures to local groups about Buckinghamshire gardens and Maud Grieve. As a member of The Gardens Trust, events committee, she organises visits to historic gardens.

  • Shaking the pagoda tree at Haileybury: The East India Company’s patronage of Humphry Repton

    Shaking the pagoda tree at Haileybury: The East India Company’s patronage of Humphry Repton

    Humphry Repton was selected by the Chairman of the East India Company to design a suitable landscape for the new East India College at Haileybury. Research into the commission has shown that Repton’s involvement was far larger than had been previously thought. The commission lasted between 1808 and 1810, requiring him to work very closely with Samuel Pepys Cockerell, who was the Company’s Surveyor. As well as providing a number of reports on the improvement of the site for the directors, Repton was employed to oversee the groundwork undertaken by Thomas Barr and his men. The surviving papers for the commission form part of the East India College collection at the British Library and provide a fascinating record of the project. Haileybury is thought to be Repton’s only executed institutional landscape.

    Haileybury was selected by the East India Company as the site for their training college for young men who were nominated to be ‘writers’, the junior administrators of the Company. The property was purchased by the East India Company on 23 October 1805 at auction in the Garraways Coffee House in the City of London for £5,900. It was placed up for sale by the owner, William Walker who had been a surgeon in the East India Company’s service, owned and enlarged the property between 1791 and 1805. Walker had purchased the house and 32 acres from Stephen Williams, a director of the East India Company. William Wilkins was given the commission to design the college buildings over the submission provided by Henry Holland, the Company’s Surveyor.

    This talk will be delivered by Toby Parker. Toby is Head of Heritage, Archives and Historic Collections at Haileybury. He is currently a part-time research student at Essex University and writing his thesis on the management and use of Oxford college gardens (1732-1837).

  • Repton and Friends at Heathfield Park

    Repton and Friends at Heathfield Park

    In the 18th century, music, poetry, painting, architecture and eloquence were known as ‘the polite arts’. This talk aims to show how these arts flourished in a well-educated group of men which Repton aspired to be part of when he created landscapes for his clients.
    Repton’s talents and taste in the polite arts as a painter, designer, writer, play actor and musician were developed while he was living abroad as a young man. His abilities in these fields, which he confessed to enjoy, were to be engaged in cultivating relationships in his professional life in the role of landscape gardener, a term invented by him which combined the arts of painting and gardening. His lasting friendships with clients such as the Duke of Portland, recorded in his Memoirs, reveal how much he desired to be part of this elite social circle, with the aim of establishing landscape gardening as another branch of this cultural milieu. As he played the flute and had a fine voice, he must have been a welcome guest at social gatherings such as took place at Harewood House.

    Repton was commissioned by Francis Newbery at Heathfield Park, and a Red Book followed in 1794. Newbery was a keen violinist and friend of William Crotch, composer and keyboard player, who was to become the first principal of the Royal Academy of Music. Newbery’s daughter Mary composed two poems derived from Repton’s description of Heathfield Park in the Red Book (subsequently published in his Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening), and Crotch set them to music. Crotch also painted scenes in the park.

    Heathfield Park saw domestic performances of at least one popular London play, with prologues and epilogues tailored to the Heathfield performances, written and published by Newbery. Whether Repton took part in these performances is not known, but he might well have been invited to attend.

    This talk aims to show how the people in the social and artistic circle Repton enjoyed were interested and active in a range of creative leisure pursuits, including landscape garden art.

    This talk will be delivered by Judy Tarling. Judy is well known in the field of historical performance, having toured and recorded extensively during the pioneering years 1975-2000, especially with the group she leads, The Parley of Instruments. Her two books, Baroque String Playing ‘for ingenious learners’ and The Weapons of Rhetoric: a guide for musicians and audiences, are required reading in conservatoires and university performance practice departments worldwide. In 2009 she was awarded a distinction for her MA in Garden History (Birkbeck College) and she is now writing about rhetoric in the landscape garden.

  • Repton in London

    Repton in London

    The title is anomalous, since in Repton's time London was just the City of London – the “Square Mile” – and Greater London did not come into being until 1965 with the merging of the former County of London (established in 1888) and the old County of Middlesex, supplemented by the incorporation of parts of the surrounding counties of Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire and Essex. Greater London comprises 32 London Boroughs plus the City of London, totaling 610 square miles, and the Gazetteer included in the London Parks & Gardens Trust’s “Repton in London” contains a surprising 59 sites associated, albeit sometimes very tenuously, with Repton.

    Unsurprisingly, there are no very large estates or country houses – Kenwood in north London is perhaps the largest and most complete – but there are several large villas that survive as institutions in private grounds or public parks or as golf clubs. Grovelands for example, formerly called Southgate Grove, is now a private hospital, its grounds in divided ownership and in part a public park, and is of especial interest as a product of the short-lived partnership between Humphry Repton and the architect John Nash.
    Repton's sons John Adey and George Stanley both worked as draughtsmen in Nash's office, and George Stanley became a principal assistant to Nash, the falling-out between Nash and his father notwithstanding. Nash was the Prince Regent's architect for his major metropolitan projects which included the formation of the Regent's Park, commenced in 1811, and the influence of Humphrey and the hand of George Stanley are evident in the design of the park. Grand classical terraces, arguably rather theatrical in character, look out onto parkland of grass and trees with a large irregular lake and a number of miniature landscapes surrounding classical villas. The Regent's Park may be considered the apotheosis of the Reptonian landscape, adapted to a suburban location and setting the pattern for many subsequent and inevitably much less grand garden suburbs.

    Wholly urban in location, although aiming to retain or evoke rus in urbe, are the three garden squares designed by Humphry Repton, Bloomsbury, Russell and Cadogan. Bloomsbury and Cadogan Squares have been compromised by the construction of underground car parks, but Russell Square, the largest and set out after 1800, has been substantially restored to its original layout, although now open to the public and no longer restricted to keyholders.

    Many sites survive only as fragments, a pond or group of cedars perhaps, but are nevertheless recalled in place names or depicted in a Red Book. At Point Pleasant in Kingston, gradually swallowed up by suburbia and with most of its land sold in the 1890s for red-brick rather than classical villas, the riverside Nash villa lingered for a while as a country club for oarsmen but was burned in 1907, and on the site now stand three blocks of 1970s flats with only two cedars and a long stretch of retaining wall to recall the once-renowned gardens. At Kneller Hall, currently the Royal Military School of Music, the house built for the painter Sir Godfrey Kneller which still stood in Repton's time was rebuilt in the mid C19 and Repton's lake has been filled in and built over. The remaining land is the subject of development proposals, but the Red Book for Whitton survives and depicts the miniature estate created by Repton for Samuel Prime, who had asked only for a design for a pavilion.

    This talk will be delivered by Chris Sumner. Chris is a retired architect, formerly employed by the late Greater London Council and by English Heritage. He is an architectural and garden historian, and a founder-member and one-time chairman of the London Parks & Gardens Trust. He has written one of the chapters in the forthcoming LPGT book “Repton in London: The Gardens and Landscapes of Humphry Repton (1752-1818) in the London Boroughs”.

  • Repton and the War Profiteers

    Repton and the War Profiteers

    A theme encountered consistently during research into the Yorkshire commissions is Repton's attitude to the source of his patrons' wealth. His patronage appears to have progressed from old money to new. Up to 1806, he created five Red Books for Portland Whigs, both aristocratic and gentry, as well as two for aristocratic Tories. Then in 1810, he created another two for men of commerce at Oulton and Armley.

    Repton chose not to comment on the source of the wealth of his old money patrons. Yet he relished criticising the commercial sources of new money, which in his view was tarnished by ‘war profiteering’. Moreover, he disparaged these businessmen as vulgar bourgeois arrivistes, devoid of the culture of his preferred aristocratic and gentry patrons. Nonetheless, when querying the source of the income of his apparently old money clientele, it became clear that only one, Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth Woodhouse, could be described as genuinely aristocratic ‘old money’, whose wealth derived from land ownership. The other six were all upwardly mobile, recently gentrified or elevated into the aristocracy, with incomes derived from the new money of commerce (as at Owston, Bessacarr and Harewood), the military (Mulgrave) and the law (Rudding and Langold). All, to some degree, would warrant Repton’s rather vague description of ‘war profiteer’.

    The most dramatic example of landed-patron-as-war-profiteer must be at Harewood. Indeed the political and commercial alliance between urban and county Tory-Anglicans, brings Harewood, Oulton and Armley much closer together than expected. Lascelles was as much a ‘war profiteer’ as Blayds and Gott. His family’s contracts to supply the navy were very lucrative and largely ignored because slavery was the political ‘big issue’. Even though it was common knowledge that Repton’s patron at Harewood was among the wealthiest of the many enriched by the slave economy, he chose not to recollect the sources of their income, but instead the hospitality of the Lascelles family and Lord Harewood’s failure to adopt his proposals. Yet, despite his prejudice against new money, the only folio-size Red Books were created for his two mercantile clients in Leeds. These were considerably larger than the standard quarto-size bestowed on his other clients. The exception is Harewood, where the Red Book took the form of a bound collection of architectural drawings similar in size to those for Armley and Oulton. Clearly, the folio size signified the importance to Repton of these ‘war profiteers’.

    Repton exposed his contradictions in Fragments (1816). Confirmation that the Oulton landscape was a success has been corroborated by archival research. However, his apparent denunciation of Blayds provides another example of his polemic against new money. Nevertheless, quotations from English and Latin poetry are absent from the Oulton Red Book. These were intended to complement a client’s erudition. Surprisingly, the volume with the most was for Benjamin Gott. It would appear that Gott’s connoisseurship did not correspond with Repton’s perception of a ‘war profiteer’. Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that Repton chose to ignore that he too was a businessman, and considerably less successful than Lascelles, Blayds or Gott.

    This talk will be delivered by Dr Patrick Eyres, editor-publisher of the unique New Arcadian Journal and, in 2018, published On The Spot: The Yorkshire Red Books of Humphry Repton, Landscape Gardener, which he co-authored with Karen Lynch.

    Karen Lynch will lead the discussion; she has also published on the pre-Repton Brown through the YGT’s Noble Prospects: Capability Brown and the Yorkshire Landscape and in Yorkshire Capabilities: New Arcadian Journal 75/76 (2016).

  • Good Taste and Druids, Repton in Wales

    Good Taste and Druids, Repton in Wales

    Humphry Repton’s work in Wales is rare, with only three sites definitely attributed to him. Each commission is stunning and shows how Repton responded to very different sites that each had an ancient history.

    In 1789 Repton and Payne Knight went on an excursion through Hainault Forest in Essex. Emes had declared that Needham Forest had given lessons in the picturesque. Brown had apparently gained similar inspiration at Hainault.
    In Epping, Repton drew sketch of Knight carving names in a tree and the same year visited Downton.

    In 1790 Repton visited Paris with his brother Thomas Andrew and Knight’s friend the antiquarian and connoisseur Charles Townley. The trip was abandoned because of the French Revolution, which had just begun.

    Townely returned to his estate at Burnley and in 1795 published a pamphlet on his observations on the drainage of land. Townely also planted a huge number of trees and was interested in the agricultural revolution and the development of crops. At the same time he landscaped the parkland and developed shrubberies around the house.

    In 1794 Knight published The Landscape, a long poem on landscape gardening and improving the landscape. The theorists Payne Knight and Uvedale Price then began a dispute with Repton over the aesthetics of landscape gardening with Repton promoting utility and convenience.
    We can see how these influences informed Repton’s approach to landscape from 1795 in Wales.

    This talk will be delivered by Glynis Shaw, Trustee of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust and Chairman of Clwyd Branch. She is the Editor of Welsh Historic Gardens Trust Bulletin, designer and webmaster of the WHGT website. She has lectured in History of Art at Leeds University, Liverpool University, Chester College and Bangor University. Since 2006 she has worked on Heritage Conservation/ Restoration projects as a photographer in Shanghai with Tongji University. She continues to research parks and gardens in North East Wales and works as a freelance photographer and lecturer.

  • Tracking down a Hardenberg Basket

    Tracking down a Hardenberg Basket

    Humphry Repton put his mark on Surrey (new boundaries!) in 1799/1800 with Red Books delivered at Hatchlands Park and Betchworth House as well as likely passing suggestions provided for Hampton Lodge, Seale. The Surrey GT has celebrated the Repton bicentenary with events in both key landscapes and it was in the course of research for a study day in May 2018 at Betchworth House, the private home of Lady Hamilton and her family, I discovered a very distinctive reproduction of a ‘Hardenberg’ basket on the lawn of the house which it subsequently transpired had been made in Cornwall at the instigation of the National Trust in 1994.

    The design for the reproduction closely resembles that of the John Adey Repton’s design for a ‘Hardenberg’ basket for the Dowager Lady Suffield at Gunton sometime later in 1823. This clearly begs a question: does this reproduction accurately reflect the style and design of ‘basket’ which Repton had very clearly depicted in his Red Book illustrations for Betchworth some twenty years earlier and which potentially adorned the lawns in the garden?

    More questions inevitably followed - when did Repton start to work these intricate details into his landscape designs and where else did he deploy them? In a year when Repton’s influence on the English landscape has been microscopically examined, it seems appropriate to attempt to fully understand and appreciate how these details in his designs and work found there place and reflect on their lasting influence.

    As a landscape designer and keen gardener, I was also immediately intrigued to know what would have been planted in the reproduction style basket at Betchworth House but also more widely in the various incarnations the corbeille took in design and format. Just as Repton has been described as the culminating exponent of the English landscape tradition, he also played an important part in expanding and popularising the tradition of flowers in the garden. While the cottage orneé style is very familiar and largely understood to be the epitome of Repton’s expression with flowers, some microscopic analysis of these intriguing structures may provide a better appreciation of this landscape gardener’s true intent.

    This talk will be delivered by Sarah Dickinson. Sarah is a landscape designer and planting consultant practising in Surrey. After a career as a property lawyer in the City, she retrained while taking a career break with her three children. Sarah also has an Msc in Conservation of Historic Gardens and Cultural Landscapes from Bath University and volunteers as a Director of the Gardens Trust and Vice – Chair of the Conservation Committee in which role she is the line manager to the HLP team. Sarah is also currently Chair of the Surrey Gardens Trust.

  • Jack The Giant Slayer: Restoration of a Repton Landscape

    Jack The Giant Slayer: Restoration of a Repton Landscape

    Much time and effort has gone into researching our historic gardens and especially recently those laid out by ‘Capability’ Brown and now Humphry Repton.

    Historic parks and gardens are a fragile and finite resource: they can easily be damaged beyond repair or lost forever. Whether in town or country, such places are an important, distinctive, and much-cherished part of our inheritance and we have a duty to care for them. (Historic England) Even the government’s National Planning Policy Framework acknowledges that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource.

    This is particularly so with the designs of Brown, Repton and others in the English Landscape style. Many decision-makers are often not aware that they have a designed landscape of importance and so these are all too easily lost.

    Many of the county gardens trusts work hard to research historic landscapes and use this research to help protect them against inappropriate development and restore them where possible.

    This is the story of one such landscape which received planning permission for gravel extraction 7 years before it was designated Grade II* on the HE Register. The house was demolished in the 1950s as so many were; in this case due to lack of heirs and a suitable alternative use not being found.

    With the last bit of gravel having been extracted, the process of restoration has begun. Here the expertise of garden historians and the research they have done is proving crucial to guiding and informing what is done and how. This has been greatly helped by HE adding it to the Heritage At Risk Register and by the local community – especially Jack, our very own Giant Slayer*

    This talk will be given by Kate Harwood, Conservation and Planning Officer for Hertfordshire Gardens Trust and a member of the Gardens Trust Conservation Committee. She is also a researcher, lecturer and writer on historic gardens.

    * The film Jack the Giant Slayer tells the story of Jack, a young farmhand [schoolboy] who must rescue a princess [Repton Broadwater] from a race of giants [big business] after inadvertently opening a gateway to their land in the sky [Panshanger]

Image: Humphry Repton Mulgrave Castle Red Book 1793, with kind permission of the Marquis and Marchioness of Normanby