When the 6th Duke of Bedford inherited Woburn in 1802, he commissioned the famous landscape gardener, Humphry Repton (1752-1818), to create designs to enhance the gardens and parkland. 2018 celebrates the bicentenary of Humphry Repton.
Recognised as the first person to invent and use the title ‘landscape gardener’, Humphry Repton regarded himself as the rightful successor to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Repton produced over 400 designs and schemes for gardens great and small, but of these, 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 these, he promotes his style and references his important work for the Duke of Bedford.
With the Duke being Repton’s most important client, at a time of declining commissions, the Woburn Red Book is one of his largest works. It contains Repton’s most ambitious and detailed designs covering the approaches to the Abbey, the lakes and plantings in the surrounding parkland and the formal Pleasure Grounds.
Exhibition - Humphry Repton: Art & Nature for the Duke of Bedford
Open to the public between 23rd March and 28th October 2018, the new exhibition explores the fascinating relationship between Repton and one of his greatest clients. On public display for visitors to see for the first time will be his most elaborate and comprehensive Red Book.
In addition, the exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to discover Repton’s other works for the family including at the picturesque Devon estate of Endsleigh, Oakley House and Russell Square in London. Never before seen unexecuted designs will feature alongside works of art and archival treasures, which bring to life the creative legacy of Repton. There will also be Repton-related family trails, activities and events throughout the year.
Repton landscapes at Woburn Abbey Gardens
Having explored the Repton’s legacy in the exhibition, visitors need only step outside to discover Repton’s beautiful landscape designs. Since 2004 the present Duke and Duchess of Bedford have been restoring many of Repton’s features in the Woburn Abbey Gardens. These include 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 to restore the 19th Century Humphry Repton landscape won the “Best Restoration of a Georgian Garden” at the Georgian Group Architectural Awards.
Other Repton features in the Woburn landscape include; The Aviary, set to be further restored in 2018 and the Doric Temple.