REPTON, Humphry (1752-1818)
THE PROPERTY OF THE BARING FAMILY
REPTON, Humphry (1752-1818)

[RED BOOK for] Stratton Park in Hampshire, a seat of Sir Francis Baring Bart. MP [1801].

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REPTON, Humphry (1752-1818)
[RED BOOK for] Stratton Park in Hampshire, a seat of Sir Francis Baring Bart. MP [1801].
Repton’s ‘Red Book’ for Stratton Park, illustrated with his ingenious method devised to show before and after views by means of flap overlays which could be lifted to reveal a transformed landscape. Here he presents his designs to transform Stratton Park, including considerations of the house, which had been recently acquired by Sir Francis Baring, found of Barings Bank, from the 5th Duke of Bedford. Repton was the leading landscape architect of his day, enjoying the patronage of British royalty, nobility and landed gentry. He produced his ‘Red Books’ – every one unique and so-called because they were often bound in red morocco, as here – for each project.

Repton starts here with a disquisition on landscape painting, acknowledging Francis Baring’s renowned art collection, and citing Gainsborough’s comment that he had begun by painting oaks and ashes and only afterwards learned to paint trees. In addressing the Character of the Country, Water, Situation, Road, Ground Plan of a propose house, etc., he also considers all aspects of a stately home and its grounds, including digressions on Georgian architecture, the role and responsibilities of a landscape gardener, the benefit of woods, open vistas, hedges, pleasure grounds and various architectural ground-plans for a new building, often referencing notable estates across the UK such as Bowood, Wentworth, and Hampton Court. Among Repton’s most important recommendation to be implemented was re-siting the turnpike – now the A33; the landscaping was eventually completed by Charles McIntosh. His strong recommendation to replace rather than enlarge the house was rejected, and it was remodelled in the Greek style by George Dance the Younger between 1803-06. Today only a portico of the house stands and the remainder of the estate is largely agricultural and sporting.

Repton's Red Books were written in various copperplate hands, possibly his own or even those of his sons and daughters (cf. Carter, Goode & Laurie, Humphry Repton Landscape Gardener). He claimed to have produced 400, and about 100 survive.

Oblong quarto (220 x 293mm). Manuscript in ink on paper comprising title-page and 18 leaves of text within blue ruled frames, the introduction signed with an autograph inscription ‘First visit at Stratton Park April 23 1801. Plans finish’d June 1801’ large folding plan in watercolour and ink and 11 numbered watercolour views, of which 8 have overslips, 5 plates joined to form 2 panoramas, 7 ground-plan diagrams on one text leaf (very occasional faint stain). Contemporary red straight-grained morocco, single gilt fillet border, flat spine with single gilt fillets, gilt edges (light scuffed and rubbed). Provenance: Sir Francis Baring (1740-1810; bookplate; founder of Barings Bank; by descent).

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