The Garden Museum is open! BOOK YOUR VISIT

Home » Exhibitions » Repton Revealed

Repton Revealed

The Art of Landscape Gardening

This exhibition celebrated Humphry Repton (1752 – 1818) and his rare and beautiful Red Books.

See how Repton’s career unfolded in this special exhibition which brings together Red Books and watercolour paintings, many never publicly displayed before, to celebrate the bicentenary of his death.

24 Red Books are on display, so named by Repton due to the distinctive red leather bindings he favoured. Very few remain, and this exhibition reunites the largest number of Red Books in one place in 25 years.

Repton devised the books as a clever marketing tool; each is ingenious in design and unique. Clients would open the book to see Repton’s delicate watercolours of their garden as it currently appeared, and then would then lift a flap, revealing Repton’s new design for their garden as it could be (provided they paid Repton handsomely to make the design a reality!). As pages are turned, trees rise or are felled, a stream becomes a lake, an untidy farm becomes a genteel park, or, as is the case in the Sundridge Park Red Book, a house is suddenly replaced with another, grander manor. Repton interspersed the watercolours with notes, often in a conversational style, recalling walks with the owner of the house during his visit. Compliments are followed by criticism, very often of the designer who had preceded Repton.

As well as exploring the relationship between the interior and exterior, and between the garden and the wider landscape, the exhibition also looks at Repton himself, at his comparatively late start in landscape design (at the ripe old age of 36) and his use of a wheelchair later in life, after a carriage accident, from which he continued gardening.

Repton Revealed includes objects from around the world, and from public and private collections, including the Royal Collection Trust, the British Library, Royal Academy of Arts and The Oak Spring Garden Foundation.

As well as seeing the Red Books and other Repton watercolours, the exhibition includes a specially commissioned digital animation of Armley, a Repton Garden in Leeds. This allows visitors to step inside and experience the magic of Repton’s designs.

The exhibition has been curated by Stephen Daniels, Professor Emeritus at the University of Nottingham. His considerable expertise will bring the Red Books to life in this special exhibition.


Tuesday 30th October
This exhibition is accompanied by an evening talk Humphry Repton: Landscape Gardening and the Art of Memory by Curator, Stephen Daniels.

Monday 5th November
We are holding an all-day event, Discovering the Real Repton in partnership with The Gardens Trust which will celebrate and explore the research of different County Gardens Trusts completed this year.

Thursday 24th January
Ten Things I Learned About Repton: Christopher Woodward, Director of the Garden Museum and architectural historian, shares what he’s learned in two years in the lead-up to Repton Revealed.

Thursday 31st January
Repton Revived: The Landscape Gardener’s Legacy and Influence is an all-day symposium held in partnership with the Paul Mellon Centre exploring how Repton’s influence has continued over the past two centuries.

Repton Revealed is sponsored by City & Country:

As the UK’s leading heritage developer, City & Country is delighted to be sponsoring the Garden Museum’s Repton Revealed Exhibition. In 2014 City & Country became the proud owners of The Mansion at Sundridge Park along with its iconic Humphry Repton Red Book. Since then, the business has been restoring and converting the mansion to provide a collection of unique apartments, whilst the Red Book has been on loan to the museum for all garden and landscape enthusiasts to enjoy.

As part of the restoration City & Country will be reinstating part of Repton’s landscape designs for the house, including the reinstatement of ‘the gentleman’s pleasure grounds’. The development is set to launch this Autumn, interested parties should visit and register their interest to acquire a piece of this heritage asset.