Humphry Repton’s link to Gidea Park

Humphry Repton. Picture: Georgina Green

Humphry Repton. Picture: Georgina Green - Credit: Archant

Great English landscape designer Humphry Repton died 200 years ago this week. Local historian Georgina Green looks at his life and connections to the area

Humphry Repton spent his childhood and early married life in Suffolk and Norfolk but in 1786 he moved with his family to a cottage at Hare Street, Gidea Park.

The site is now occupied by Lloyds Bank on the corner of Balgores Lane and Main Road, between Romford and Gallows Corner.

In 1788, aged 36, he realised that nobody had stepped in to replace Capability Brown and he decided to set up in business as a landscape gardener. His previous experiences had given him a good background for this work and he quickly became established, working for all sorts of people from the nouveaux riches to the aristocracy.

Repton claimed that by the end of his career he had written more than four hundred reports but only about 370 sites where he may have worked have been identified so far, with over 40 in Essex.

His report, sometimes in the form of a Red Book, has survived for 110 of these, 84 are supported by documentary evidence and 48 are mentioned in Repton’s published works.

Most of the remainder are illustrated in Peacock’s Polite Repository, a little pocket diary for which Repton provided illustrations.

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The Red Book contained a text with his ideas illustrated with delicate watercolours with an overlay to show his transformations and it is not surprising that several of them were for places fairly close to his home.

They include Higham Hill (now Woodford County High School) for John Harman (1793/4) and Woodford Hall for John Maitland (1801).

Claybury Hall for James Hatch (1791) was his only commission in Ilford. Accounts survive for Repton’s visit to Mr Puller’s house at Woodford in 1790 which was near the site of Monkhams. Repton’s bound work on Wanstead for William Long Wellesley in 1813 was discovered in 2002 and adds to our knowledge of his work locally.

Humphry Repton died 200 years ago, on March 24, 1818, aged 65, and was buried in the village of Aylsham, Norfolk, where his grave is marked by a stone inscribed with the epitaph he had written for himself, and by a bed of roses.

Georgina Green is giving a talk about Humphry Repton in Redbridge

on Friday, March 23 at 2pm, at Redbridge Central Library, Heritage Centre.

Free, but please book in advance at the library, 020 8708 2417 or on Eventbrite