‘”The park wall must be continued around the farm for the safety of the woods, which I observed were shamefully mutilated by the natives, & also for the preservation of game.”[1]

Queen Victoria copied the sea wall at Norris when she bought Osborne House, next door.

Queen Victoria copied the sea wall at Norris when she bought Osborne House, next door.

Humphry Repton had reasons for recommending park walls. These increased as the Napoleonic Wars came to a close, releasing many indigent men into the countryside. This may also explain why there was to be no approach from East Cowes along the esplanade, why indeed the possibility of an approach there was rendered impossible by the Bathing House which stands four-square across the line of the obvious route. Repton was working on the shore approach to Mulgrave Castle at the same time and had decided to abandon it:

“the road along the sea beach from Whitby is always tedious from the heaviness of the sands, and often dangerous from the uncertainty of the tides.”[2]

Beaches were after all uncontrollably public, as he made clear in his red book for Sheringham.’ [Notes from the Professor, trans. the Type-Setter]

A gloss from the Type-Setter: our Editor and the Professor are losing sight of the purpose of this inquiry into Norris Castle: to wit, did Humphry Repton have a hand in the landscape? Nonetheless we have been asked, by no less a personage than Ms H.T. of Shanklin, to come to judgement: did Repton have work at Norris Castle or did he not?

As for myself, the humble type-setter, I am asked the question and I judge that he did. Besides the illustration in Peacock’s Polite Repository, so much of what happened at Norris was recommended by Repton at Plas Newydd (1799) and Hooton (1802), where he was working at more or less the same time. It is as if he was trying to see how the same suite of ideas would play out with different buildings in quite different parts of the country.

Yet is it not also the case that the quality of the landscape itself and our understanding of it should generally be given priority over its authorship?

[1] Plas Newydd in the isle of Anglesey North Wales A Seat of The Rt. Honble the Earl of Uxbridge, 1799.

[2] MULGRAVE in Yorkshire A Seat of The Right honble Lord Mulgrave, 1792.