Biography of Humphry Repton

Humphry Repton

Humphry Repton was an eighteenth/nineteenth century garden designer and part of the Landscape Movement.

When and Where was he born?

21st April 1752, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England.

Family Background:

Humphry Repton was the son of John Repton, a prosperous collector of Excise Duties and Martha (née Fitch) from Suffolk.

Education:

Bury St. Edmunds Grammar School and Norwich Grammar School then a school in Wokum in the Netherlands.

Timeline of Humphry Repton:

1762: His father sets up a transport business in Norwich.

1764: Humphry Repton is sent to the Netherlands to learn Dutch and prepare for a career as a merchant to follow in his father’s footsteps. Here he meets a rich family who introduce him to drawing and gardening. On his return to Norwich he is apprenticed to a textile merchant.

1773: He marries Mary Clarke in May at St. Mary in Marsh Church in Norwich and sets up in business on his own as a textile merchant.

1778: Repton’s parents die and leave him some money. He was not very successful at business and decides to buy a small country estate at Sustead, near Aylsham in Norfolk. At this time he tries being a journalist, a dramatist, an artist, a political agent, and as a confidential secretary to his neighbour William Windham of Felbrigg Hall when Windham became Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

1783: Death of Lancelot Capability Brown.

1788: Repton moves to a small cottage at Hare Street near Romford in Essex. (Now rebuilt as a Branch of Lloyds Bank) By now he has four children and no income and decides to use his sketching skills to become a “landscape gardener” (a term he created himself). His first paid commission was Catton Park in Norwich. He would create his famous “Red Books” for clients which had before and after sketches of the design and his own watercolours . They would then be bound up in red leather as a record for the client.

1790: Repton begins working with the architect John Nash.

1794: Richard Payne Knight and Uvedale Price both publish vicious attacks on him calling him the the “meagre genius of the bare and bald” They criticise his serpentine curves as bland and unnatural. He championed Brown but Repton would also re-introduce formal terraces, trellis work, balustrades, and flower gardens.

1800: He falls out with Nash most likely over Nash’s refusal to credit the work of Repton’s architect son John Adey Repton.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton
The Royal Pavilion, Brighton as conceived by Repton’s former friend John Nash. 
This was particularly upsetting for Repton who had submitted Indian style drawings for the building himself (copyright  Anthony Blagg)

1808: He designs Stoneleigh Abbey and introduces the “home lawn” which was to become a feature of gardens grand and small ever since.

1811: Repton suffers a carriage accident and subsequently he often needed a wheelchair to get around.

When and Where did he Die?

24th March 1818, London, England.

Age at Death:

66.

Written Works:

1788: “The Bee” (a Critique on Paintings at Somerset House).
1795: “Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening”
1803: “Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening”
1804: “Odd Whims and Miscellanies”
1806: “An Inquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening, with some Observations on its Theory and Practice”
1808: “Designs for the Pavilion at Brighton”, “On the Introduction of Indian Architecture and Gardening”
1816: “Fragments on Landscape Gardening, with some Remarks on Grecian and Gothic Architecture”

Marriage:

To Mary Clarke in May 1773 at St. Mary in Marsh Church, Norwich.

Site of Grave:

Outside the porch at Aylsham Church, Norfolk.

Places of Interest:

BEDFORDSHIRE:

Woburn Abbey.

CORNWALL:

Antony House. Torpoint.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE:

Dyrham Park, Hinton.

HEREFORDSHIRE:

Ashridge Gardens, Ashridge.
Sufton Court, Herefordshire.

KENT:

Cobham Hall, Cobham.

LONDON:

Russell Square Gardens.
Kensington Gardens.

NORFOLK:

Catton Park, Old Catton, Norwich.
Sheringham Park, Sheringham Hall.

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE:

Clumber Park.

SURREY:

Betchworth House.

SUSSEX:

Royal Pavilion, Brighton.
Uppark.

WARWICKSHIRE:

Stoneleigh Abbey.

WILTSHIRE:

Longleat House.

WALES:

Plas Newydd, Wrexham, Clwyd.