Mr D of Orwell is puzzled by a passage in Humphry Repton’s red book for Wimpole which is critical of Brown’s approach.
Let me take a step back. Brown had quite a thing for the head-on view of the house. If you think of the view from the end of the north ride at Croome, just before it dives off to Pirton Park, it is more or less directly in front of the house, the same goes for the view-point on the way out of the Long Plantation by the old gravel pit at Berrington; the view from the concave at Petworth; the burst through the clump opposite the Dairy at Milton Abbey and the approaches to the north front; the approach at Uppark; the opening in the belt that Brown proposed for the Harston approach to Belvoir – need I go on?
Let’s say that in these cases Brown displays his inheritance of the French tradition that the house should be seen from head on, which gives the building the maximum presence in the design and demands a degree of balance in the landscaping which is implicit in all Brown’s work.
Repton generally criticised Brown for this – at Thoresby for example: ‘the present bridge is so unfortunately placed, that the house is shewn in the most unfavorable point of view … but if we are carried a little farther to the North, we shall see two fronts of the house and the portico becomes the leading feature.’
Then we come to the comment on Wimpole that Mr D finds so puzzling: ‘One of the great improvements which Mr Brown introduced in Modern gardening, was the changing the roads of approach from the straight line in front of a house; to that sweeping line towards one angle which might make a small house appear large by shewing two fronts at the same time.’ What?!! (Mr D, I fear that Repton’s texts are as complex as chess games, and merit annotations to match). But read on: ‘This line has been adopted at Wimpole [but] … it is so managed that during great part of the road the house is totally hid by trees, and the stables are immediately brought into view…’
The fact is that Brown frequently brought roads in at an angle – at Blenheim, Holkham and King’s Weston for example – but at Wimpole and elsewhere his intention was to conceal them in views from the house, while Repton’s was to show off the house from the road. The two men had two different ideas about approaches.
I hope that that helps with your difficulty. For my contribution towards this discussion, rewards will be offered for further examples of the head-on view in Brown’s oeuvre.