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Humphry Repton

(1752—1818) landscape gardener

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Leading English landscape-designer after the death of ‘Capability’ Brown (1783). Repton responded to the fashion of the 1780s for a more truly ‘natural’ Picturesque approach than Brown's, and his abilities as a water-colourist enabled him to make his intentions clear to clients by means of ‘before’ and ‘after’ views which he presented in his famous ‘red books’, of which over 70 are recorded. His plantations were more dense than Brown's, and he introduced unfamiliar imported varieties of trees and shrubs. In 1795 he formed an association with John Nash, and carried out works at Burley-on-the-Hill, Rut. (1795), Corsham, Wilts. (1796–1800), Southgate Grove, London (1797), Attingham Park, Salop. (1798), Luscombe, Devon (1799), and other places. There is no doubt that Repton's ideas had a profound influence on Nash, as can be seen at the latter's Blaise Hamlet, near Bristol (1810–11), and developments at Regent's Park Villages, London, completed by Pennethorne. Repton had been on good terms with those high-priests of the Picturesque, Payne Knight and Uvedale Price, but Knight poured scorn on Repton's red book for Tatton Park, Ches., to which Repton responded by defending his approach to design in Sketches and Hints on Landscaping Gardening (1795). He later published Observations on Landscape Gardening (1803), An Inquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening (1806), and Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1818), which profoundly influenced landscape-designers (e.g. Loudon and Nash in England, Alphand in France, Pückler-Muskau in Germany, Olmsted in the USA).

Although not trained as an architect, he saw architecture as an ‘inseparable and indispensable auxiliary’ to landscape-gardening, and often introduced architectural arrangements around the houses for which he was preparing landscape-designs, including terraces with steps, conservatories, and ‘winter-corridors’ (for perambulation during inclement weather). He prepared a Hindoo design for Brighton Pavilion, Sussex (1806), but was not a little put out when his former colleague, Nash, supplanted him. With Nash, however, Repton was a pioneer of the cottage style that was to be such an important part of the Picturesque movement. In 1840 Repton's disciple, J. C. Lou-don, reprinted his main publications, with a memoir and reproductions of the Brighton Pavilion designs, in The Landscape Gardening and Landscape Architecture of the late Humphry Repton. Repton collaborated with his son John on the landscapes of Sheringham Hall, Norfolk (1812–19), and Ashridge, Herts. (c.1814). He became increasingly reliant on his sons John and George for the architectural elements of his designs. His reintroduction of terraces and parterres adjacent to country-houses, and his designs for rose-gardens and aviaries had a profound effect on Victorian garden-design.

G. Carter et al. (eds.) (1982);Colvin (1995);S. Daniels (1999);Hunt (1992);Hussey (1967a);Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);Placzek (ed.) (1982);Stroud (1962);Summerson (ed.) (1980a);Jane Turner (1996);D. Watkin (1982a)

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