Image for Humphry Repton at Woburn Repton's Watercolour Design For The Rockery Pavilion.

The First Landscape Gardener

Humphry Repton was the first person to use the title of Landscape Gardener. He made it up by combining his interest in landscape painting with his skills in practical gardening.

On his inheritance of Woburn, the 6th Duke continued his brother, the 5th Duke of Bedford's, development of the Estate. In 1804 he invited Repton to suggest proposals for landscaping the Abbey grounds after all of the building work at The Abbey. Repton sent his Red Book, filled with his ideas for the estate, to Woburn in January 1805. 

This book contained a number of plans that were eventually carried out such as a new approach from the London Road, the thornery plantation and a viaduct. Others were partly carried out such as the pleasure grounds layout, hills either side of the driveway and changes to the Basin Pond dam. Finally, some suggestions were not enacted at all. These included new road layouts, including the driveway to the West Front, and alterations to the pond shoreline.

Image for Humphry Repton at Woburn

It is the pleasure grounds that form the main area considered to be Woburn Abbey Gardens today. Although the paths and excavations were completed, the Menagerie built and the bridge over the Greenhouse pond constructed, most of Repton’s vision for the pleasure grounds was unrealised.

It seems that perhaps his ideas of “fanciful decoration” were just not to the taste of the Duke and Duchess. In the end, with the input of Sinclair and Wyatville, gardens for recreation and relaxation were built over the subsequent decade, together with exciting and magical places for the children to play.

You can learn more about the work of Humphry Repton and his plans for Woburn Abbey at one of our study days. Take a look at our event listings for more information. 

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