How many of the millions of visitors to Wicksteed Park, Kettering, “The Place where Fun was Invented”, would know of its association with Barton Hall and the last great landscape designer of the eighteenth century, a man who was the first to describe himself as a Garden Designer, Humphry Repton?
As we stand in the famous Rose Garden featuring the charming statue of Charles Wicksteed’s dog, Jerry, there is a clear view of Barton Hall where in 1793 Charles Tibbit invited Humphry Repton to re design the landscape of Barton Seagrave.
Barton Hall has the rare honour of one of Repton’s famous Red Books to its name. He was way ahead of his time in creating a clever marketing device with before and after views in watercolour; the beguiling after view being revealed by lifting paper flaps. It is still a mystery as to what extent his designs were executed but evidence would suggest that, at Barton Hall, his advice was taken. Although having to acquiesce to the ambitions of his clients in wanting their landscape to depict status and exclusivity, Repton’s values may have been closer to the philanthropic Wicksteed. Towards the end of his life, he shares his puzzlement at those who seek exclusivity admitting that, “I have rarely met with those who agreed with me in preferring the sight of mankind to that of herds of cattle, or the moving objects in a public road, to the dull monotony of lawns and woods”.
Though almost a century between them, these great visionaries may have more in common than first supposed. Certainly, Charles Wicksteed would have agreed with Repton’s statement, ”For the honour of the country, let the parks and pleasure-grounds of England be ever open” and Humphry Repton may well have approved of Wicksteed offering a Gateway to Health and Happiness.
Continuing the spirit of Repton and Wicksteed the Gardens Trust and Northamptonshire Gardens Trust are hosting a Family Picnic at Wicksteed Park on 30 June as part of the Repton 200 celebrations. Fun, games and happiness for all ages in the sunshine.
Our New Research Symposium in Birmingham on Sunday 2 September 2018 includes a presentation by Northamptonshire GT member Stephen Radley entitled A Landscape of Aspiration: Charles Tibbits, Humphry Repton and Barton Hall, Northamptonshire…