Wembley Park wins Sharing Landscapes competition

Repton bust, the prize in Sharing Landscapes competition

The Wembley Park project, in Brent, north-west London, has won the Gardens Trust’s Sharing Landscapes competition to encourage greater inclusivity in enjoying historic parks and gardens. The prize, a bust of Humphry Repton donated by Haddonstone, will sit in a new park at the heart of a major new development at Wembley Park.

The Sharing Landscapes competition encouraged professionals and volunteers working in the historic landscape sector to push themselves to welcome as many and diverse people as possible to visit historic parks and gardens. The Gardens Trust has created the competition to complement its Sharing Repton: Historic Landscapes for All project, being run with a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to the Lottery players. The project is finding new ways to engage wider audiences with historic parks and gardens. It accompanies Celebrating Repton, which marked Humphry Repton’s bicentenary in 2018.

The prize is a bust of 18th century landscape designer Humphry Repton and was offered to our favourite plan for getting as many people as possible to see it. It is donated by Haddonstone, who marked the bicentenary of Humphry Repton’s death by commissioning professional sculptor Hannah Northam to create the bust – a significant and important piece of work, as no previous portrait bust exists.

Repton at Wembley

Humphry Repton laid out the landscape gardens for the Page Family home, Wellers, in the late 18th Century which then grew into the original Wembley Park in the late 19th century with the arrival of the Metropolitan Railway. The 1920’s saw the conversion of the park into the site for the British Empire Exhibition and the original Wembley Stadium.

Today, development by Quintain at Wembley Park is ongoing around Wembley National Stadium and The SSE Arena, Wembley to create a new residential quarter on land that was previously surface car parking and exhibition sheds. As a living urban regeneration scheme, Wembley Park has a broad range of activities and open space on offer and attracted over 11.6 million visitors and local residents in 2018. At the heart of this district will be the new park (visualisation below), designed to draw inspiration from Humphry Repton’s original design. Once completed, this will be an exciting location for Repton’s bust, creating a wonderful way to celebrate a true visionary who started the creation of the landscape setting for Wembley over 200 years ago.

Visualisation of the new park at Wembley Park where the Repton bust will be

Julian Tollast, Head of Masterplanning and Design for Quintain at Wembley Park said: “Wembley is known throughout the world as a place for great performances. The principles that Repton embodied in his visionary work have helped shape our own thinking in designing and now delivering a truly memorable landscape in the public realm and residents’ gardens that are enjoyed not only on event days but now every day of the year.”

As Repton himself wrote of Wembley in 1793 “on Wednesday I go to … a most beautiful spot near Harrow. I wish I could shew (sic) it to you.”

Stubbers in Essex

The judges also admired other entries. They were particularly interested in Stubbers, Essex, near to Repton’s Romford home. Stubbers is home to a not-for-profit adventure activity centre, welcoming visitors of all ages from North East London, South Essex and beyond. Excavations in the 1970s revealed the remnants of Repton garden walls and pavilion, along with a surviving walled garden. Over the past 10 years garden volunteers have worked hard to bring new life to the garden so it can be fully used and appreciated.

Repton’s bust would have been located in the walled garden, where it would be seen by participants in Stubbers’s organised events as well as the many other visitors. In 2018 there were over 56,000 visitors, not including those visiting the wider estate. Repton’s bust would also have been re-created as a giant wood-carving as part of the new adventure play area, creating a focal point in the garden.

Other strong entries

At Henham Park, Suffolk, a very intact Repton landscape, the bust would have been located in the core of the landscape, on high ground amongst an avenue of recently rediscovered ancient oaks, and could also have been glimpsed from ‘The Approach’. Here it could have been discovered by the 40,000 visitors to the Latitude Festival every July, an event featuring the very best in music, comedy, literature, poetry and theatre, and the 20,000 people who visit the annual Steam Rally in September.

The entry from Pentillie Castle, Cornwall, proposed that Repton’s bust would have been seen by the two thousand annual visitors to the August Pengrillie BBQ Festival, Bed and Breakfast guests, wedding parties, and garden and afternoon tea visitors. Along with access to Repton’s Pentillie Red Book, it would promote Repton’s legacy to a large group of visitors unaccustomed to garden history, in a uniquely relaxed and informal atmosphere.

What the judges said

The panel of judges comprised: Dr James Bartos, Chair of the Gardens Trust; Stephen Daniels, Professor Emeritus of Cultural Geography at the University of Nottingham and author of Humphry Repton: Landscape Gardening and the Geography of Georgian England; and Will Haxby, Marketing and Ornamental Sales Director, Haddonstone.

The Gardens Trust’s Chairman, Dr James Bartos, said: “The Gardens Trust is delighted to see fresh ways of thinking about sharing garden history with a wide audience and hope that this competition is just the beginning of a move to encourage new people to get involved with historic parks and gardens.”

Will Haxby, Marketing and Ornamental Sales Director, Haddonstone said: “Haddonstone is delighted to be partnering with the Gardens Trust by launching the Sharing Landscapes competition. We have worked with the Gardens Trust for a number of years and have been particularly involved during the celebrations marking the bicentenary of Humphry Repton’s death. We commissioned professional sculptor Hannah Northam to produce a Humphry Repton bust as part of the celebrations and we are thrilled to be donating this very special design as the competition prize”.

Professor Stephen Daniels said: “The work of the London Parks and Gardens Trust has put Wembley on the Repton map, learning more about his design there than was previously recognized. This is an exciting opportunity to deploy the bust to commemorate a vanished landscape, and to highlight Repton’s work to a large new audience.”

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith