Repton, Humphry, 1752-1818

Alternative names
Birth 1752-04-21
Death 1818-03-24

Biographical notes:

English landscape gardener and architect.

From the description of Autobiographical letter, 1812 May 1. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 80025773

Repton was professionally consulted to remark upon improvement of Witton, Woodhouse's country estate, primarily its landscape.

From the description of Witton in Norfolk : holograph ms. / H[umphry] Repton. 1801. (University of Florida). WorldCat record id: 11426913

Repton was an Irish landscape painter and writer.

From the description of Plans, hints and sketches for making pleasure-ground on the banks of the lake at Holkham..., [1789?]. (Winterthur Library). WorldCat record id: 122548196

English landscape gardener.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Stonelands Park [E. Sussex], to Lord Sheffield, 1805 Dec. 22. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270872163

English architect and landscape designer.

From the description of Humphry Repton architecture and landscape designs, 1807-1813. (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 82491002

Humphry Repton was born in Bury St. Edmunds in 1752, son of John and Martha Repton. He was educated in Bury and Norwich, before being sent, in 1764, to Workum to learn Dutch, then to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where he remained until he was 16. After returning to Norwich he learned his trade in silks and calicoes. In May 1773, he married Mary Clarke and set up business as a general merchant. His business failed and he went to Sustead, Norfolk, where his sister lived. He spent his time there as a country gentleman, studying gardening and botany at the urging of friends. After accompanying the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant around Ireland in 1783, he moved into a cottage, now called Repton Cottage, in Romford, Essex. After returning to England he embarked on a scheme to improve the conveyance of mail with John Palmer, but this also failed, forcing Repton to pursue new ventures to increase his income. In 1778, Repton declared that he would become a 'Landscape-gardener'. During his years at such work, he developed from the formal style of Lancelot Brown to a more natural and varied style, combining "artistical knowledge with good style and good taste." After his work at Cobham, Kent, in 1790, he was employed by many noblemen to work on their estates. In 1811, Repton suffered an accident while returning from a ball which damaged his spine, rendering him incapable of further work. He died in 1818, and was buried at Aylsham Church.

From the guide to the Papers and works of Humphry Repton, 1752-1818, 1793-1814, (University of Bristol Special Collections)

Landscape gardener.

From the description of Beau-Desert in Staffordshire : a seat of the Earl of Uxbridge & c & c & c, 1814 / by H. Repton. (Princeton University Library). WorldCat record id: 77949093

British landscape gardener, architect, and author.

From the description of Papers of Humphry Repton, 1746-1818. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122499635

English landscape designer, architect and author.

From the description of A few hints concerning landscape sketches, 1811. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 77974170

From the description of Report concerning the gardens at Ashridge, respectfully submitted to the Earl of Bridgewater..., 1813. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82778007

From the description of Architectural designs for Harlestone Park, Northampton, by H. and J.A. Repton, 1808-1811. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 80500186

James Whatman (1741-1798) of Maidstone, Kent, purchased the 84-acre estate of Vinters in 1783, and after extensive improvements to the house and park, moved there in 1787. Like his father, James Whatman the elder (1702-1759), Whatman was one of the most important paper makers in Britain. Their primary paper operations were located at Turkey Mill, on the River Len, just south of the Vinters estate. The Whatman paper business was very sucessful thanks to the high quality of its paper production and innovations such as wove paper (introduced in 1757) and "antiquarian" paper (in 1773), all of which made Whatman papers highly desired by printers and by artists, in Britain and on the continent.

By 1797, Humphry Repton (1752-1818) had established himself as a leading landscape gardner in England. His designs for park improvements took the consistent form of a "Red Book", an oblong quarto report bound in red morocco showing his proposals with maps, watercolor views, and an elegantly copied text. The text commonly consisted of descriptions of the character and situation of an estate, followed by Repton's suggested improvements, with full-page watercolor drawings interspersed to elucidate his ideas.

A signature feature of Repton's Red Book illustrations was the use of overlays to demonstrate before and after views. The overlay worked by means of a hinged flap of paper affixed at the edge of a landscape view. On the top side of the flap was painted a problematic portion of the client's property; with the flap in the down position thus, the page illustrated the view as it currently existed. When the flap was lifted up and to the side, the same landscape with Repton's improvements was revealed.

A Repton Red Book design typically summarized conclusions reached by Repton and his client during his visits to the client's estate. The completed Red Book served various functions. Some property owners certainly used Repton's designs to refashion their estates. Other clients had no intention of carrying out the improvements; for them, a Red Book might be used simply as a handsome album of views, to show off to family, friends, and visitors. A full study of Repton's Red Books is available in André Rogger's Landscapes of taste: the art of Humphry Repton's Red Books (London, New York: Routledge, 2007). Rogger estimates that Repton completed between 200 and 220 Red Books, the earliest in 1789. Of the 123 documented copies in Rogger's census, the present manuscript is no. 74.

In May 1797, James Whatman employed Humphry Repton to redesign the park at Vinters, for which he paid Repton 50 guineas. The Vinters Red Book was to be added to Whatman's growing library of views of Kent, the most important of which was Paul Sandby's A View of Vinters at Boxley, Kent, with Mr. Whatman's Turkey Paper Mills, 1794 (now in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, Prints and Drawings: B2002.29). Additional views commissioned by Whatman included two separate watercolors of Vinters and Turkey Mill by William Jefferys, 1797, and three views, including one of Vinters, by John George Wood, which were engraved and published in 1800 in Wood's Views in Kent (Abbey, Scenery 173). Whatman died before the improvements suggested by Repton could be carried out.

From the description of Vinters in Kent, a seat of James Whatman Esqr., 1797. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702201303

Biographical/Historical Note

English author and landscape designer, Repton is sometimes called the sucessor to the landscape designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown, though Repton was never as financially successful.

Initially untrained in architecture, landscape design, or gardening when he began his career, Repton used his drawing skills to obtain clients. Unlike other landscape designers, Repton left the exectution of his designs to others. He produced books for his clients that showed before and after views to help them visualize his designs. Usually in red bindings, these design proposals became known as Repton's “Red Books” and perhaps were the foundation of the books he published, Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening (1795) Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803), and Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1816). An example of a Red Book can be found in this collection.

Repton worked with his sons, the architect John Adey Repton and George Repton. The Reptons practiced together and separately with the architect John Nash prior to 1800.

From the guide to the Humphry Repton architectural and landscape designs, 1807-1813, (Getty Research Institute)


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  • Manors
  • Moseley Hall (Worcestershire)
  • Gardens--Design
  • Landscape architecture England History 19th century
  • Landscape gardening--Great Britain--18th century
  • Landscape drawing, English--19th century
  • Chron--1797
  • Landscape architecture--Early works to 1800
  • Architecture, Domestic--Designs and plans
  • Stables
  • Landscape drawing--Great Britain
  • Gardens, English
  • Landscape architecture
  • Landscape gardening
  • Great Britain--History--19th century--Sources
  • Architectural Drawings
  • Architecture--History--19th century
  • Landscape drawing
  • Landscape in art
  • Gardens in art
  • Landscape design--Great Britain
  • Landscape design
  • Country homes
  • Landscape architecture England History 18th century
  • Architecture--Great Britain--19th century
  • Architecture


  • Artists


  • England (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • Norfolk (England) (as recorded)
  • England--Suffolk (as recorded)
  • Abbots Leigh (England) (as recorded)
  • Culford (England) (as recorded)
  • Maidstone (England) (as recorded)
  • England--Hampshire (as recorded)
  • Witton (England) (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • England--Norfolk (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • Brandsbury (Brent, London, England) (as recorded)