University of Nottingham

Bringing Landscape to Life: Environmental histories at Sheringham Park, 1812-2012

Project outline

Designed in 1812, the landscape at Sheringham is one the few surviving examples of the designs of Humphry Repton (1752-1818), the finest and most comprehensive, taking in architecture, woodland, parkland and coastland (Daniels 1999). The bicentenary of this design in 2012, within the timetable of this project, offered a timely opportunity to research both the 1812 context and the place of this design in terms of wider and longer term changes in the making, management and meaning of this landscape, and to present the findings to a broad public, including the thousands who visit the park, to 'bring the landscape to life'.

Sheringham Park Sheringham Park


This project was funded through the AHRC call 'Enhancing the role of Arts and Humanities perspectives on environmental values and change: Policy, practice and public discourses' (October 2011), attached to the Care for the Future theme.

Although not officiallly part of the Landscape and Environment Programme, the project built upon the outcomes of the Director's Impact Fellowship, and brought together the Director and Research Fellow with the Local Places, Global Processes RECN, in partnership with the National Trust, and with advisors from the Anticipatory Histories RECN. The aim was to address current debates about the implications of environmental change for the restoration, management and interpretation of publically accessible designed landscapes of high cultural value.

The original project ran from March-August 2012 with the exhibition opening in September 2012. A small extension ran from July-August 2013. The public exhibition is still in place with no immediate plans for its removal (January 2014).

From September-November 2013 members of the project team took part in a research exchange with an equivalent project based at the Kilmahew estate in Scotland.

Research questions

  • How should a designed landscape be conserved and displayed when there is no longer the economy and labour which once sustained it?
  • What is the changing meaning of a landscape, designed for a specific time, when situated in a much longer environmental history?
  • How can the mentality as well materiality of this past landscape best be communicated at present?
  • How can the designed landscape be interpreted as one that was (with the house) a space that was lived in, worked on and moved through as well as looked at?
  • What are the implications of environmental ideas and values ingredient to past phases of Sheringham’s development for understanding and managing the landscape now?
  • What are the multiple narratives of this landscape and how can they best be told?
  • What are the lessons of Sheringham for the practice and policy of designed landscape management, within and beyond the National Trust?


Project team meeting

Sheringham Park, Norfolk, 29-30th March 2012

This 2 day meeting brought the whole research team together to discuss the project outputs, explore Sheringham Park, and set a timetable for the project.

Project workshop

University of East Anglia, 18-19th June 2012

The project workshop at the University of East Anglia Humphry Repton and Environmental Change explored the restoration and interpretation of designed landscapes for public understanding in the context of wider currents of cultural and environmental change. The event included keynote lectures from David Adshead (Head Curator, National Trust) and Jonathan Finch (University of York) and four panel discussions as well as a presentation by the project team. A report from the event is available to download.

Exhibition opening

Sheringham Park, 6th September 2012

Staff and volunteers from the National Trust joined the project team, designers Ugly Studios and a group of academics from the University of Nottingham to officially open the exhibition.


Exhibition, Sheringham Park, Norfolk, August 2012-August 2013

A major output from the project is the exhibition Humphry Repton at Sheringham Park: Bringing Landscape to Life, 1812-2012 in the visitor centre at Sheringham Park. An accompanying catalogue is available alongside a guided walk in both mobile phone application and leaflet format.  

Online resources

A series of new illustrated web-based articles on Repton's work at Sheringham Park were launched in January 2014. A short video using images from the original Red Book is also online.

Research team

Principal Investigator:
Stephen Daniels, University of Nottingham

Paul Warde, University of East Anglia

Research Assistant:
Lucy Veale, University of Nottingham

Sarah Spooner, University of East Anglia

Other members of the team: 
  • Ben Cowell, National Trust
  • Caitlin DeSilvey, University of Exeter
  • Simon Naylor, University of Exeter
  • Keith Zealand, National Trust
  • Malcolm Fisher, National Trust
  • Rob Coleman, National Trust

    Project partner

    National Trust black

    Related links

  • Sheringham Park







    Landscape and Environment Programme

    School of Geography
    University Park
    University of Nottingham
    Nottingham, NG7 2RD

    telephone: +44 (0) 115 84 66071