‘I am asked again whether Humphry Repton worked on a smaller scale than Capability Brown, and whether he should be regarded on that account as less worthy of our regard.
Here is a quick calculation. 172 sites attributed to Brown are included on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens. The registered boundary of these sites amounts in total to 123,400 acres, or 717 acres per site. There are 150 sites attributed to Repton on the register with a total area of 81,500 acres, or 543 acres per site. Many anomalies attach to these figures: the boundary given on the Historic England register is more or less invariably smaller than the landscape that Historic England seeks to protect; some of the attributions are unreliable; equally there are good sites with sound attributions to Brown and Repton which are not on the register. Please however do not let us waste time in pedantry: Brown’s landscapes were in general significantly larger than Repton’s, but Repton’s were by no means small.
It is essential however that we should rebut the inference of the question: size is not very relevant to significance. Compare if you will the little piece of ground where stood ancient Athens, and the mighty half-continents bestridden by the Persian empire, and ask yourself which civilisation had the greater influence on Europe. Consider also the people of Bohemia and Moravia who have proudly established for themselves over many centuries a position amongst the great nations of the world, out of all proportion to the size of their two kingdoms. The question to ask instead is whether people of weight in Repton’s day wanted large parks – and then what it was that they did want, and what led to such a change during the decade following Brown’s death in 1783?
Consider the list of prime-ministers in note 1846, it is unthinkable that in the time of Brown the country should not have been ruled by aristocrats – Robert Walpole may not have been ennobled at the start, but he acquired the estate and the country house pretty quickly. Yet in Repton’s time we have Spencer Perceval, living in a villa in Ealing. Small wonder he ended as he did! [Notes from the Professor, trans. the Type-Setter]