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Humphry Repton in Kent

By Elizabeth Cairns


Repton, in short, should never be taken for granted. He deserves our greatest respect, and Kent is the right county to start in, so give thanks for this book and tuck in! John Phipps

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978-0-993404412

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'Bayham Abbey and Vinters, two of the five sites described in this book, show how seriously Humphry Repton’s advice was taken. In both cases the landscapes were not completed until a half century after his death but their development stayed true to his grand outline. At Kippington he gave advice

(which was taken) but did not provide a red book, thus showing that it would be a mistake to write him off as the purveyor of smart coffee-table books with water-colours of un-executed designs. At Cobham Hall, his pleasure ground, looking from a distance like natural woodland, contains a series of adventures, of pools and quarries, glades, exquisite flower gardens and grottoes set into an apparently undesigned matrix of natural woodland, like something from Spencer’s ‘The Faerie Queene’.

Then, representing his last work and another creative breakthrough, Montreal, with its series of themed garden rooms, ‘Episodes to the great lawn’, was completed by 1834 more or less to Repton’s design. Repton invented and rediscovered so much and we must ask where the whole Arts and Crafts movement would be, in fact where would all English gardening since the time of Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson be, if they had not had his trail to follow?' John Phipps

 

Two hundred years after his death is a fitting time to commemorate and re-assess the work of Humphry Repton (1752-1818). He was the third most influential landscape gardener, following William Kent and Capability Brown. At the same time he was the most often overlooked of this celebrated succession of geniuses who created and led the English Landscape Movement of

the 18th century.

Repton’s trademark was the ‘Red Book’ he presented to his clients.  These red leather-bound books (sometimes green) are an account of his visits and descriptions of his recommendations and designs, illustrated by his famous watercolours demonstrating ‘before’ and ‘after’ views.

Five of Repton’s commissions in Kent, Cobham, Vinters, Montreal, Kippington and Bayham, are detailed in the book.

Each has a full description of the site, Repton’s visits and proposals, extracts of the Red books and accounts of the families who commissioned him.

The introductory chapter is about Repton’s place in the development of gardens and landscapes, together with the case studies of the five Kent gardens. It shows Repton’s key role in the transition from Brown’s extensive parklands to the return of designed, ornamental gardens which developed in the Victorian era.

 


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