REPTON, Humphry. 'RED BOOK' for Mogenhanger in Bedfordshire a Seat of Godfrey Thornton Esq. 1792
Oblong 4° (215 x 285mm.). MANUSCRIPT in ink on paper comprising title-page and 12pp. text with grey ink ruled frames, the introduction signed with an autograph inscription "At Mogenhanger first time 28 May 1792. The Place finishd in August 1792, at Hare Street by Romford" AND 6 (numbered to 7) WATERCOLOUR ILLUSTRATIONS BY REPTON, INCLUDING MAP AND 5 VIEWS, one double-page with 2 overslips and 3 others with overslips, in all 19pp. on 19 leaves (overslip missing from last view; double-page view with split at centre fold). Contemporary russia, gilt-tooled border on sides (skilfully rebacked and restored). The author's trade card engraved by T. Medland pasted on verso of front free endpaper.
"In 1792 Repton had only recently started on his career as a landscape gardener, and his ideas still owed much to 'Capability' Brown, his predecessor as leader of the fashionable landscape gardeners. This is evidenced by the present-day appearance of Moggerhanger, where all is far more restrained and elegant than in his later work" (Moggerhanger Park (The Bedfordshire Magazine) by James Boutwood). Sir John Soane had already been employed to draw up plans for alterations to the house and work continued intermittently for twenty-two years. When Repton was invited to suggest improvements for the grounds he appears to have experienced some difficulties. The Introduction is followed by Character and Stituation where, referring to the house, he says "it is not easy to affix its true character, it is too large and too much ornamented for a farm house, while it is too small and too humble for a family country-seat and its distance from the captial is too great to permit its being called a Villa. I shall therefore consider it as an occasional sporting-seat". Then follow suggestions for Views from the Dining room; View from the Drawing room which he finds difficult owing to the unavoidable 'disposition' of the rooms "where Genius is confined to the altering an old house, instead of having full latitude to plan a new one". He then devotes three pages to The approach "Nothing contributes more to the importance of a place than the appearance of neatness and attention to the comfort of the neighbouring poor...the houses in Mogenhanger parish are already in very neat repair, they only want a few honeysuckles or vines to decorate their walls..." and continues with The Walks; Of Objects "few village churches at a mile distance are in themselves objects of beauty..."; The Drives; and finally Conclusion, where he suggests placing a cottage by the river "with an occasional room, for those who come to fish...and might be made a very interesting and picturesque part of the scenery belonging to Mogenhanger".
According to Carter, Goode & Laurie Humphry Repton Landscape Gardener 1752-1818 Repton's Red Books were written in various copperplate hands, possibly his own or even those of his sons and daughters. His trade card, they were very valuable advertisements, luxury extras demanded by his clients; taking him from three to seven days to complete, he asked two guineas a day for work carried out at home. Moggenhanger Park is listed in the Gazetteer for Bedfordshire, but there is no reference to the Red Book, but it is noted that Repton's sketches for improvements at Beeston Leasowes, originally part of the Moggerhanger Park estate, were sold at auction in 1967.
Moggerhanger became the property of Robert Thornton on the death of his uncle by marriage Richard Astell, in 1777. The estate had previously belonged to the Bromsall family. Some time before 1791, Robert Thornton sold the estate to his brother Godfrey. The house was later a sanatorium.