The book, Humphry Repton at Herriard Park, published with support from a grant from the Hampshire Archives Trust is a joy for anyone with an interest in gardens.
Sifting through a quarter of a million papers in the Hampshire Record Office has allowed a team of researchers to reconstruct the plans of a garden designed 200 years ago by Humphry Repton, the man who coined the occupation ‘landscape gardener’.
The remains of the scheme can even be seen from space in the form of the octagonal wall which surrounded the kitchen garden of Herriard Park, a grand estate a few miles outside Basingstoke. It has been in the hands of the same family since 1601, when Lucy Paulet, a member of the family of the Marquesses of Winchester, married Sir Thomas Jervoise.
The Jervoise family made the project feasible by their habit of ‘never throwing away even the smallest scrap of a note or list’. The lead researcher was Sally Miller, chair of the Research Group of the Hampshire Gardens Trust (HGT), which has just published a finely illustrated book, Humphry Repton at Herriard Park: ‘Improving the Premises’, aided by a grant of £3,000 from HAT.
Repton’s work was commissioned by George Purefroy Jervoise in 1793, only a year after he had inherited Herriard Park from a childless uncle at the age of 23. For a little more than £46 (about £4,500 in today’s money) the garden designer paid a visit to the estate and provided one of his famous Red Books.
The Red Book itself has been lost, though the bill survives. According to the HGT authors, it would have included: “Sketches of the ‘unimproved landscape’…overlaid with hinged slides that could be lifted to reveal the Reptonian transformation. The accompanying discursive and flattering text was written in elegant copperplate.”
Humphry Repton at Herriard charts the creation of the garden to replace an earlier design of 1699 by nurseryman and garden designer George London, celebrated for work at Hampton Court, Chatsworth and elsewhere. In March 1796 the first of the 172,000 bricks required for Repton’s octagonal wall was laid. In total, Jervoise spent about £1,000 (£93,000 in today’s money) on the kitchen garden alone.
At a time when expectations of a French invasion were high, Jervoise was often away at camp as a Captain in the North Hampshire Militia, and unable to keep a close eye on progress and expenditure. By 1799, he was facing financial ruin and sent a mournful letter to his father. He wrote: “A prospect with a very melancholy aspect now begins to represent itself before me, having only the sum of £240 in my possession.” In time, he overcame the crisis and lived at Herriard until his death in 1847.
Sally Miller has been assisted by graphic designer Sheila Carey-Thomas, who 40 years ago moved with six other families to a 45-acre estate in Hampshire and is a founder member of the East Hants Self-Sufficiency Group. Co-authors are Dee Clift, a volunteer at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, who has a special interest in the history of plants, and Eleanor Waterhouse, who studied at Sparsholt College and was runner-up, with a friend, in the BBC television series The Big Allotment Challenge.
Humphry Repton at Herriard Park is a joy for anyone with an interest in gardens. The authors have meticulously detailed all the plantings – the fruit trees, vegetables, trees, plantations, shrubberies and the small flowering and ornamental plants. Extensive appendixes list the names of plants and much other information on the plants Repton specified. The book has been supported by a grant from the Hampshire Archives Trust and may be obtained, price £12, plus £2.50 p & p, from the Hampshire Gardens Trust, Jermyns House, Ampfield, SO51 0QA, email@example.com. The grant from Hampshire Archives Trust was one of a series made in August 2019.
The Trust has awarded £3000 towards the cost of the publication – which is informed by research on the Jervoise family archives held at Hampshire Record Office.
2018 is the bicentenary of Repton’s death and many County Gardens Trusts have published books about their (more numerous) sites. There are only two authenticated Repton sites in Hampshire, Herriard Park and Stratton Park.
HGT research adds to knowledge about Repton’s work and how his ideas were implemented at Herriard, which will be published by HGT in 2019.
The research project will reconstruct the work carried out by George Purefoy Jervoise at Herriard Park between 1793 and 1799 to plans by Humphry Repton, landscape gardener and successor to Lancelot ’Capability’ Brown. The Jervoise family archive is one of the largest held at Hampshire Record Office. Detailed transcription and analysis of letters and bills has resulted in a description of what was done at Herriard and the scale and cost of the works.