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Picture of the Month - September 2013

This month we're looking at a watercolour sketch of Adlestrop Park by Humphry Repton.

Helen Hargest

This month I am focusing on a picture from our Local Collections Archive; a charming watercolour sketch by Humphry Repton (1752-1818), the last of the famous English landscape designers of the eighteenth century.

Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton's watercolour sketch of a decorative bath house and seat in the flower gardens of Adlestrop Park.

His sketch, dated c. 1800, is for a decorative bath house and seat in the flower gardens of Adlestrop Park in Gloucestershire, owned by the Leigh family. It is included in the section of family and estate papers relating to Adlestrop House and Gardens, 1750-1826. The Leigh family archive is the largest single collection deposited at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The family were originally from Shropshire, but Thomas Leigh (c. 1498 - 1571), a merchant in London, bought the site and many of the estates of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, as well as the manor of Adlestrop in Gloucestershire, formerly owned by Evesham Abbey.

For his clients, Repton produced “Red Books”, so called because of their bindings, which included watercolours of his designs with explanatory text, such as the Red Book for Stoneleigh Abbey. No such volume exists for Adlestrop, but we do have this sketch “showing a Bath House and Seat approached by a winding path in the flower garden at Adlestrop Park” [1] and plans for construction of the bath house and seat are documented elsewhere. Today the structure no longer exists but “the shallow pool base for the pool that was in front of it can still be seen and ad the stone steps leading to it.” [2] It was laid out by Repton to look as natural as possible with the pool fed by water from a spring, “leasing to a cascading stream in the grounds.” [3]

The novelist Jane Austen was related to the Leigh family through her maternal grandfather, Thomas Leigh, who was born in Adlestrop in 1696. Her relationship with and visits to the Leigh family at Adlestrop and Stoneleigh Abbey are explored in a recently published book; Jane Austen and Adlestrop Her other Family by Victoria Huxley, who lives in the village. This sketch by Repton is reproduced both inside and on the back cover of the book.

[1] [2] [3] Huxley, Victoria. Jane Austen and Adlestrop her other family. (2013) Windrush Publishing, Gloucestershire.