Posted 13th Feb 2018 by Peter Byrne
Gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh MBE is to open a new exhibition at Woburn Abbey on 21st March to celebrate the bicentenary of the 'rightful successor’ to Lancelot 'Capability' Brown
Humphrey Repton is recognised as the first person who invented and used the term 'landscape gardener', creating over 400 designs and schemes for gardens of all sizes. Yet despite this great number, he stated, "none were more fully realised than at Woburn Abbey". He published his theories in two influential books, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803), and Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1816).
In both titles, he promotes his style and references his important work for the Duke of Bedford.
The exhibition will be open to the public between 23rd March and 28th October 2018 and explores the relationship between Repton and one of his greatest clients. Visitors will get to see his elaborate and comprehensive 'Red Book' on display for the first time, giving guests the chance to discover Repton's other works for the family, including the picturesque Devon estates of Endsleigh, Oakley House and Russell Square in London. These unexecuted designs were previously available to the public and will feature alongside works of art and archival treasures, bringing to life the creative legacy of Repton. There were also Repton-related family trails, activities and events throughout the year.
The Duke of Bedford said: "I am very happy to welcome Alan Titchmarsh to Woburn Abbey. The Abbey will be a major player in the national celebrations, supporting the work of The Gardens Trust and giving Humphry Repton the prominence he deserves."
Alan Titchmarsh MBE said: "I am delighted to be opening an exhibition which celebrates the work of a man whose prime object was to beautify the land surrounding a fine country house and to help house and garden work in harmony. Repton and his 'Red Books’ well deserve their place in the history of British landscape gardening."
Repton landscapes at Woburn Abbey Gardens
Having explored Repton's legacy in the exhibition, visitors needed to step outside to discover Repton's landscape designs. Since 2004, the present Duke and Duchess of Bedford restored many of Repton's features in the Woburn Abbey Gardens, including the folly grotto, the Cone House, the menagerie and the striking Chinese-style pavilion, which was completed in 2011 and went on to win a Hudson's Heritage Award. In 2013, Woburn's project restored the 19th Century Humphry Repton landscape won the "Best Restoration of a Georgian Garden" at the Georgian Group Architectural Awards.
Martin Towsey, Estate Gardens Manager, said: "I am proud that Woburn Abbey is marking the bicentenary of Humphry Repton with this captivating exhibition, which represents the culmination of 14 years of hard work by the Woburn Abbey Gardens team to restore the gardens to their former glory."
Matthew Hirst, curator of the Woburn Abbey Collector, said: "Never before has the Red Book for Woburn been on public display, nor has there been an opportunity to show it alongside his other designs for the Duke of Bedford. This exhibition will give a fantastic insight into one of the nation’s greatest gardening influences."