REPTON, Humphrey

1752 - 1818

Humphrey Repton

As Humphry Repton, he was born at Bury St Edmundís, Suffolk on 21 April 1752, son of John Repton, a collector of excise, and his wife Martha née Fitch. Educated at Bury St Edmund's but in 1762 his father moved to Norwich and set up a transport business where Humphry attended Norwich Grammar School. At the age twelve, he was in the Netherlands studying at Hellevoetsluis and Rotterdam learning Dutch to prepare for a career as a merchant, his leisure pursuits included sketching and gardening. On his return to Norwich, he was apprenticed to a textile merchant and married in 1773 Mary Clarke and set up his own business which was unsuccessful. Both his parents died in 1778 and, with a modest legacy, moved to a small country estate at Sustead, near Aylsham, Norfolk. Repton tried his hand as a journalist, dramatist, artist, political agent, and was confidential secretary to his near neighbour William Windham of Felbrigg Hall, during Windham's very brief stint as Secretary to Lord Northington, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and whilst in Ireland with Windham he also made portraits and painted humorous subjects. Repton also joined John Palmer (1742-1816) in a venture to reform the mail-coach system, but while the scheme ultimately made Palmer's fortune, Repton again lost money. His capital dwindling, Repton moved to a modest cottage at Hare Street near Romford in Essex and in 1788, aged 36 and with four children and no secure income, he combined his sketching skills with his limited experience of laying out grounds at Sustead to become a 'landscape gardener', a term he himself coined. His first paid commission was in 1788 at Catton Park, to the north of Norwich, and to help clients visualise his designs, Repton produced 'Red Books' with explanatory text and watercolours with a system of overlays to show 'before' and 'after' views. In 1811 Repton suffered a serious carriage accident which left him needing to use a wheelchair for mobility. Humphrey Repton died at Hare Street, near Romford, Essex on 24 March 1818, and is buried in the Churchyard at Aylsham in Norfolk. His widow died at Hare Street, Harlow, Essex on 12 April 1827, aged 78.

Works by This Artist