Repton Park formed the manorial residence of the Finderne family, who had also (as the name implies) a park here which was not long ago broken up into farms (1).
The manor of Repton passed with the heiress of Finderne to the Harpurs about the year 1558 and is now the property of their descendant, Sir Henry Crewe. There was an extensive park belonging to this manor, the paling of which still [in 1817] remains. (2)
The probable line of the park pale, demarcated by field and parish boundaries and lanes is indicated on the 6" map. It encloses an area centred at SK 313 243. There are no remains of a pale. (3)
The earliest reference to a park at Repton is in 1367, when it was the property of Philip de Strelley. The park was one of the chief hunting grounds of medieval England and was to be found in substantial numbers in almost every part of the country. It differed from the other major medieval hunting grounds, the forest and the chase, in its relatively small size and that it was securely enclosed. The hunting park was usually between 100 and 200 acres in size, though some parks were much larger, and took a roughly circular or elliptical form and was enclosed in order to retain the deer, principally fallow and red deer, both for hunting and as a source of fresh meat throughout the year. The enclosure itself normally consisted of a combination of a substantial earth bank topped with a fence of cleft oak stakes, though in some areas where stone was freely available, this was replaced by a stone wall. In some districts, quickset hedge would take the place of the fence and where the topography was suitable, the paling fence alone may serve as a barrier, as would artificial and naturally occurring rivers and streams. The medieval park was owned by the lord of the manor, typically consisting of 'unimproved land' lying beyond the cultivated fields on the edge of the manor, including woodland to provide covert for the deer. Although some Saxon 'deer folds' were in existence (unknown if any were in Derbyshire), the park was essentially a Norman creation as a product for their love of hunting. Traces of medieval parks can be seen today as earth banks, curving hedge-lines marking the line of the former park boundaries, field names and farm names. (4)
Repton Park house [SMR 24517] may originally have been built as a hunting lodge within the deer park. At some point, possibly in the late 18th or early 19th century, the landscape in which it sat was re-worked to produce an effect that would 'romantically enhance' its setting. (5)
The western margin of Repton Park, as marked on the Ordnance Survey map, is formed by the Bretby parish boundary which lies just to the east of the stream following the Repton to Hartshorne road, thus leaving a narrow strip of valley bottom land which marks the former freeboard beyond the park. To the east, a pronounced hollow way passes Loscoe Farm and continues as a bridleway; where this splits, the park boundary follows the southwest fork. Here is a distinct bank either serving as a woodbank, a park pale, or both, and a slight ditch is visible along the outside of Repton Shrubs. A prominent bank runs at right angles to divide Repton Shrubs between the parishes of Bretby and Repton. The first mention of a park comes in 1252, when it came into the hands of the de Ferrers. This places its creation in the early years of the 13th century. There is another mention in the early 1280s but after this, documentary evidence is scant until the 18th century. Whether it was altered in any way by the two prominent families of later years, the Thackers and the Harpurs, and how it was used is unknown. (6)
Repton Park has its origins in the early 17th century, when a substantial lodge was built there in newly-purchased woodland by the Harpur family. It is suggested that this woodland was known as Fynderne Wood in the 16th century, and was held by Philip de Strelley and Robert de Beck in the 1330s, being sold to the Fyndernes in 1412. Until the late 18th century the history of Repton Park appears to have been quiet and uneventful. The earliest known plan, of 1762, suggests a very simple natural landscape. The lodge is shown in woodland to the east of a pond, the latter possibly having been created in 1705. A park pale is depicted, and there is a barn standing on its own in apparently open land. Sometime in the later 18th or early 19th century a new farmstead known as Repton Park Farm was built in the park, alongside this barn, so that most of the land could be worked from it. Presumably the park ceased to be a deer park at the same time, if not before. The building of Repton Park Farm meant that the old park lodge could be developed separately as a secondary seat of the Harpur family. Landscaping of the park may have been carried out in c. 1810-12 under the direction of Samuel Brown, who refashioned the park lodge at that time. This included the enlargement of the lake to the west, complete with islands, boat and boathouse. It has been suggested that the landscaping at Repton Park may have been carried out by William Emes; however there is no evidence for this. Over the course of the 19th century the park was further altered, with the planting of a lime avenue, the development of the woodland around the house as a pleasure ground with grassy glades, and the creation of a rectangular enclosure south-west of the house, split into quarters by paths and with a western terrace on the edge of the pond. With the destruction of the house in 1896, the landscape became increasingly derelict. Specimen trees west of the house may have been among the timber known to have been felled in 1896, and the lake, which always tended to silt up, is threatened by continued heavy silting and frequent leaks to the dam. However, attractive bridge and weir structures survive, as do building foundations and ruins. It is suggested that Repton Park should be considered for inclusion on English Heritage's Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England. (7)
Following an assessment by English Heritage, Repton Park was not recommended for inclusion on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens for two main reasons. Firstly survival: the designed landscape is modest in scale and retains only a small number of its defining features; and secondly setting: the loss of the house is unfortunate as the park, designed to form its setting, is now devoid of its focal point. However, as a result of the assessment, the weir and associated water management system have been listed [see SMR 24575]. (8)