Humphry Repton was born in 1752 at Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk. He grew up in Norwich and was eventually set up in business by his father.
When his business failed Humphry upped sticks and moved his family to the countryside. At the age of 36 he embarked on a new career as a landscape designer
A talented writer and a skilled amateur artist, Humphry had a working knowledge of plants and the countryside and a skill for forging contacts.
His first commissions came from local landowners. But over the years he began to receive prestigious engagements for important estates.
In 1808 Reverend Thomas Leigh invited Humphry Repton to Stoneleigh Abbey to suggest improvements to the grounds, as Repton had already worked on the Leigh land at Adlestrop. For many weeks Repton Stayed as a guest of Reverend Leigh. During his stay he would take measurements, paint what he saw and walked the surrounding lands. He then took his paintings home to see what improvements could be made.
In 1809 Repton returned to Stoneleigh Abbey with his portfolio which has now become know as the Red Book, with his suggested improvements that could be made which could enhance the natural beauty of grounds.
Humphry presented his recommendations to clients in his trademark Red Books, named for their red Moroccan leather bindings.
The books would flatter the clients and note the attractions of the existing gardens as well as the defects. Improvements to the approach, the park and the pleasure grounds were then suggested. These improvements were accompanied by watercolour illustrations with overlays to allow before-and-after comparisons.
The Red Books functioned as plans, advertisements and souvenirs. Over 100 still exist and the Red Book for Stoneleigh Abbey can be seen on display at Stoneleigh Abbey.