Repton, Humphrey 1752-1818

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Humphrey Repton was born at Bury St. Edmunds. His father was Collector of Taxes and the family intended that he should become one of the prosperous Norwich merchants whose trade was primarily with Holland. He married very young and engaged in several enterprises, all of which were failures. He spent five years studying, Hadfield states, "the beauties of nature, gardening, botany, entomology and other gentlemanly sciences: he made drawings of many of the old country seats in the neighborhood." After a short interlude as confidential secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland he took to gardening again, back in Essex, England where he started a business which again failed. One night after much worrying he decided to become a landscape gardener and the successor of "capability" Brown.

Repton had read very extensively and was a good mathematician who could "demonstrate" his theories of design with geometrical diagrams. His botanical writings appeared in the Transactions of the Linnean Society.

He published several books:

Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening (1794)
Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803)
An Enquiry into the Change of Taste in Landscape Gardening (1806)
An Introduction of Indian Architecture and Gardening (1808)
Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1817)

In his book published in 1806, he outlined the principles of landscape gardening which he followed in his successful conduct of his profession as follows:

"The perfection of landscape gardening consists in the four following requisites. First, it must display the natural beauties and hide the defects of every situation. Secondly, it should give the appearance of extent and freedom by carefully disguising or hiding the boundary. Thirdly it must studiously conceal every interference of art. However expensive by which the natural scenery is improved; making the whole appear the production of nature only; and fourthly, all objects of mere convenience or comfort, if incapable of being made ornamental, or of becoming proper parts of the general scenery, must be removed or concealed. This latter article, I confess, has occasionally misled modern improvers into the absurdly if not only banishing the appearance but the reality of all comfort and convenience to a distance; frequently exemplified in a bad choice of a spot for the kitchen garden". Obviously these principles are being pertinent today in any really good landscape planning."

Repton reintroduced the terrace as important to the foreground. The "avenue was no longer forbidden." He also reintroduced flower beds and small flower gardens consisting of various kinds of plants.

The influence of Repton was very great and long continued. John Loudon took up his theories following his death. Repton estimated that over one and a half million impressions of his sketches and views had been circulated. Three thousand were in manuscript form owned probably by his clients. He was the consultant and the work was carried out by his clients.