Books: Rep­ton re­vealed and Noir­wich

The land­scape de­signer who nur­tured some of Nor­folk’s grand­est gar­dens is the star of a beau­ti­ful new book

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Rowan Man­tell

Many of the loveli­est gar­dens in the land can trace their beauty back to a Nor­folk man. Humphry Rep­ton, who in­vented the term land­scape gar­dener, de­signed hun­dreds of gar­dens across Bri­tain – and in­flu­enced many more across the cen­turies.

The very first gar­den Humphry de­signed was his own, at Sustead, near Ayl­sham. His first paid com­mis­sion was Cat­ton Park, just north of Nor­wich, and he went on to de­sign gar­dens and park­land for more than 20 es­tates in Nor­folk in­clud­ing Sher­ing­ham Park, Gun­ton Hall, near Cromer, and Hon­ing Hall, near North Wal­sham. Na­tion­ally he worked at Kens­ing­ton Palace, Lon­gleat and Woburn Abbey.

Rep­ton be­came fa­mous for ‘be­fore and af­ter’ paint­ings of how his de­signs would look, us­ing in­ge­nious pa­per flaps and pre­sented in books bound in red leather, to show his wealthy clients how he planned to trans­form their views.

He be­came a gar­den­ing celebrity and is even men­tioned in a Jane Austen novel.

This year the na­tional Rep­ton 200 fes­ti­val marks the bi­cen­te­nary of his death. It is also the 30th an­niver­sary of the Nor­folk Gar­dens Trust, which has pro­duced a mag­nif­i­cent book to cel­e­brate his lo­cal legacy.

Ev­ery UK county has a gar­dens trust with Nor­folk’s the largest out­side Lon­don, with more than 640 mem­bers.

When the vol­un­teer re­searchers asked the public for help they were as­ton­ished by the re­sponse and the re­sult is a lav­ish 228-page book with more than 300 pic­tures.

Seven of Rep­ton’s Nor­folk Red Books have sur­vived – de­tail­ing Rep­ton’s vi­sion for es­tates at Wit­ton, near North Wal­sham, Northrepps and Sher­ing­ham with their coastal views, and a lost

Rep­ton land­scape in Nor­wich.

Bra­con­dale Lodge was de­mol­ished in the 1960s to make way for Nor­folk County Hall, but a few clues re­main of the plea­sure grounds built there for an 18th cen­tury sur­geon.

Sher­ing­ham Park is ac­knowl­edged as one of Rep­ton’s finest achieve­ments. He would never have seen the full glory of waves of ma­ture plants com­ing into bloom against a back­drop of sea, for­est and heath, but he pic­tured it for his clients.

In the book, Humphry Rep­ton in Nor­folk, all his Nor­folk Red Book images are pub­lished to­gether for the first time.

Sally Bate, who helped edit the book, said it was a Nor­folk project through and through, re­searched, writ­ten and pub­lished by Nor­folk vol­un­teers and printed in Ayl­sham to cel­e­brate the achieve­ments of the man who worked through­out the coun­try and is buried, ap­pro­pri­ately, in a gar­den, be­side Ayl­sham church.

Humphry Rep­ton in Nor­folk, edited by Sally Bate, Rachel Sav­age and Tom Wil­liamson, is on sale for £20 from many Nor­folk book­shops and from the Nor­folk Gar­dens Trust. nor­

Humphry Rep­ton’s wa­ter­colour, dated 1782, of his wife and fam­ily in the gar­den at Sustead Hall. Pic­ture from a pri­vate col­lec­tion, pho­tographed by Roger Last

TOP RIGHT:An etch­ing made from Rep­ton’s draw­ing of Cromer. Pic­ture: cour­tesy of Sally Bate, pho­tographed by Roger LastRIGHT:Ayl­sham Mar­ket Place 1814 by Humphry Rep­ton

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