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Development of the English Garden





William Kent


Before turning his interest to architecture and landscape design, William Kent was an apprentice coach painter. Through his associations as a coach painter he was able to travel to Italy, where he became aware of the paintings of Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa. The picturesque quality of the paintings influenced the way that Kent formed his vision of landscape design.

William Kent was not educated as a landscape designer, and he had very little knowledge of plants – his approach to design was as an artist. Landscape design to him was a visual endeavor, plants were chosen for their form, texture and color, and were secondary to the composition of the design. Scenes were designed as artistic compositions that had the appearance of beautiful nature, as if a designer had no hand in their execution.

Despite his lack of practical and theoretical knowledge, William Kent was very successful as a designer. He was responsible for designs at Carlton House, Chiswick, Stowe, Esher Place, Shotover Park, and Rousham.




1720 – 1725

Rousham was begun by Charles Bridgeman, but the design was entirely started over by Kent. Rousham is located on a river, the River Cherwell.

Designed as a series of landscape paintings one could walk through as a sequence, one leading to the next.




Owner – Henry Hoare II Architect – Henry Flitcroft

Landscape created between 1745 (Temple of Flora) and 1765 (Temple of Apollo). The lake was created from 2 ponds around 1754.

Stourhead is an icon of the 18th century picturesque vision of the English Landscape. The design for the garden was based on a circuit walk through a series of composed views of classical architecture set within the English Landscape.

Garden follies included:

Temple of Flora

Temple of Apollo

Obelisk – 1746

Palladian single arched wooded bridge

Grottoes – cave of the Nymph and cave of the River God


Grottified Arch


Meadow reserved for ‘Pett cattle’ bounded by a Ha-Ha

Eighteenth century visitors ended their pleasures with a great terrace ride.


Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown


The word capability comes from Browns conversation about the “capabilities” of a place.

William Kents approach to composition of the landscape influenced the work of Brown.

Landscape Parks of Brown – typified as park or ‘nature’ with the building set into it.

He saw the Landscape Garden – as an extension of the Building erasing all traces of man – “you don’t walk on steps in nature”

The curvilinear roads (paths) of Brown were meant to be cinematic, not just imitations of nature.

Capability Brown made improvements at Petworth House, Warwick Castle, Stowe, Longleat, Wrest Park, Blenheim, and many others. He had very little competition during the last thirty years of his life.


William Gilpin


Paintings of his travels became ‘sorts’ of guidebooks full of picturesque scenery.

Gilpins rules of picturesque:

-beautiful (smooth)



rough rather than smooth (Brownian)

roughness and irregularity, but not as threatening as the sublime

Gilpins books were as much about painting as about guiding – you can appreciate it if you can paint it.


Humphry Repton

1752 – 1818

Designed hundreds of real landscapes, a professional designer. In 1788 – decided to become a landscape gardener and claimed successor to Brown. Repton coined ‘Landscape Gardener’ – Repton was self educated – he had ‘taste’ and maybe that was the real selling point.

Gentleman, Artist, educated, etc. = man of taste

Repton was only a designer and did not contract to do the work as Brown did.

Red Books – this is what the client bought. The books were ‘before and after’ images – tabs lifted the before and showed the after. Watercolor drawings and text. Repton made a catalogue of many of the places he worked that reflected changes in the organization of gardens in relation to house and park. (e.g. Cobham Hall)

Extended domestic landscape -smaller area for gardens around house set in the park.

Repton standardizes landscape design as art publication of 1803 – suggestions, modifications, etc., effects of light.

Haer street residence represents some of his thoughts.

If the land is managed right it is better for society if land is in the right hands. Unenlightened people were destroying the visual quality of the landscape (for profit)

-can be addressed through aesthetics in landscape design according to Repton

-care of the land

-care of the people on the land

More socially just

Repton felt value (money) had replaced land ethics.


Sherringham – here Repton had an ideal client. Quotes Knight extensively for Sherringham. The agricultural fields used as visually aesthetic land. He suggests public visitation to Sherringham to let them have the pleasure.

“People will do it anyway but hate you in the process if you say No.”

He suggests that games like criquet be allowed – public pleasures in the park at Sherringham Park. Let the parks be open to all to enjoy the views of nature. Environmental effects (exposure, wind, slope) informing the picturesque vision of Repton. At Sherringham, Repton gives much significance to the park as well as the Architectural garden extensions of the house.

Comprehensive unified vision of landscape design.

Sherringham Bower Norfolk – complete landscape, not pieces socially conscience and aesthetic.

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