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The history of Sheringham Park

A design from Repton's Red Book at Sheringham Park showing some country walkers and an artist seated at his easel
A design from Repton's Red Book, which is housed at Sheringham Park | © National Trust Images

Sheringham Park has a rich and varied history, with many fascinating stories to tell. Home to the Upcher family for over half a century, it's now seen as the most complete, best preserved example of Humphry Repton’s landscape gardening work.

The Red Book

Humphry Repton was introduced to Abbot Upcher by his son William, a local solicitor who handled the sale of the Sheringham Estate to the Upcher family in 1811. Repton described their relationship as a ‘congenial meeting of minds’. In 1812, Repton was commissioned by Abbot Upcher to remodel the Sheringham landscape.

Repton presented the design proposal in one of his famous Red Books, written in his own hand and illustrated with watercolour sketches. It's considered one of his most comprehensive, a mark of the affinity he felt with Abbot Upcher. The Red Book is cared for by the National Trust and is now kept at nearby Felbrigg Hall. In 2013–14, it was selected to be part of the exhibition ‘Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia’ at the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts.

Humphry Repton's vision

Repton proposed that the new house be situated close to the village of Upper Sheringham, be of a relatively modest design, with rooms ‘not extravagant in size or quantity’, and that visitors be permitted to enter the estate to enjoy the views. He also recommended that the Upcher family admit the rural poor to gather dead wood within the estate boundaries. Involving themselves within the community was crucial for the Upchers at a time when social relations were divisive across much of the country owing to unemployment, economic depression and a run of poor harvests.

It was recommended that Upcher carry out some further planting to add colour, depth and variety to the existing woodlands. Planting trees also held symbolic significance at a time of war, when timber was needed for shipbuilding. The inclusion of a cornfield within the view from the house is similarly indicative of the wartime context and the need for parks to be places of production as well as pleasure.

You can install the 'Humphry Repton at Sheringham Park' smartphone app for free on iTunes or Android.

Rhododendrons blooming at Sheringham Park, Norfolk
A gap in the trees offers a view from the main drive | © National Trust/ Justin Minns

The Main Drive

The Main Drive was already lined with woodland before Repton intervened. He suggested further planting to darken the woods, thereby ensuring that visitors would not see too much of the park and sea views before reaching the Turn.

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Sheringham Hall

When Abbot and Charlotte Upcher completed the purchase of Sheringham Park in 1811, they regarded the farmhouse on the site as unsuitable for their growing family. So, Humphry Repton's son, John Adey, was called in to design what would become Sheringham Hall.

In discussions with Repton, the Upchers suggested that the new hall should face north in order to have a sea view. Repton argued for a position in the lee of the Oak Wood, writing in his Red Book: ‘The Sea at Sheringham is not like that of the Bay of Naples.’ His view prevailed.

Cattle grazes in front of Sheringham Hall, Norfolk
Cattle grazing at Sheringham Hall, Norfolk | © National Trust Images/Rod Edwards

Starting to build the hall

Work to implement Repton’s design began in early 1813, and the first stones of the new house were laid in July, with Repton and John Adey both present. Abbot was enthusiastic and experimental in his planting, being the first in the district to introduce the plane tree.

By the end of 1816, the roof was completed. Abbot and Charlotte planned to move in during the summer of 1817, and progress in laying out the design remained good until early 1817. But during that year, Abbot tragically fell victim to a ‘brain fever’. He never recovered and died in 1819, just a few months after Repton’s own death.

Eventual completion

Abbot's wife Charlotte did not want to move into the hall, but she continued to manage the estate and was an active member of the local community, campaigning for, and donating to, causes such as the town’s first lifeboats, along with international issues including the abolition of slavery.

It was not until their eldest son Henry Ramey married in 1839 that the house was finally completed on a slightly more modest scale.

Successive generations of the Upcher family continued to develop the estate, following Repton’s design as closely as possible. One of the last features to be implemented was the Temple, which was commissioned by Thomas Upcher and built in 1975 in a slightly different position to Repton’s original proposal.

The Upcher Family


Abbot and Charlotte Upcher

The young couple completed the purchase of Sheringham Park in July 1811. Eight years later, Abbot tragically died at the tender age of 35.

Muntjac kid in the woods at Sheringham Park, Norfolk

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