Norfolk landscape designer Humphry Repton
PUBLISHED: 11:54 13 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:13 13 March 2018
Archant Norfolk 2016
When you visit the rolling splendour of Sheringham Park or discover the trees and meadows of edge-of-city Catton Park you are not just seeing the beauty of nature, but also the work of Norfolk landscape genius Humphry Repton. Rowan Mantell finds out more on the 200th anniversary of his death
Some of the grandest and loveliest gardens in the land were designed by a Norfolk man. Humphry Repton even came up with the term ‘landscape gardener’ as he revamped the vast estates of 18th and 19th century England.
The man who designed gardens and parkland for Kensington Palace, Longleat, Woburn Abbey, Sheringham Park and in London’s Russell Square at the heart of the Bloomsbury development, began by designing his own garden at Sustead, near Aylsham.
Then, exactly 230 years ago, he planned the sweeping gardens and parkland which are still enjoyed by walkers, runners, families and picnickers at Catton Park, just north of Norwich.
It was the first of hundreds of landscaping commissions for Humphry, who was brought up in Norwich and began his working life apprenticed to a textile merchant. He tried careers in writing, art, business, and even reforming the mail coach postal system, before he realised he could combine his gift as a painter and interest in gardens.
In his mid 30s, Humphry and his wife Mary had four children, and no secure regular income. But as word of the beautiful landscapes he conjured from fields and woodland spread through the aristocracy he was soon a gardening celebrity, producing designs for some of the grandest families in Britain.
He became famous for “before and after” paintings, presented in red books, which showed his wealthy clients how he planned to transform their views.