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

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography

Abstract

The project will explore environmental histories of the designed landscape of Sheringham Park in Norfolk, since 1987 the property of the National Trust. The aim of this research is to build upon the outcomes of the PI’s Director’s Impact Fellowship 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 research will build on the outcomes of an established working partnership between the Director’s Impact Fellowship and the National Trust, and develop those with two related RECN projects(‘Local places, global processes’ and ‘Anticipatory histories of landscape and wildlife’), in a collaborative, teamwork research model of wider application for deploying arts and humanities perspectives on environmental change.

It will examine how a designed landscape can be conserved and displayed when there is no longer the economy and labour which once sustained it and explore the ways in which the mentality as well as materiality of this past landscape can best be communicated effectively to the visiting public.

It will take advantage of the topicality of the design, the bicentenary of its 1812 design by Humphry Repton, undertaking new archival, library and field research to situate the designed landscape of 1812 within a broader context of estate management of the time, to rethink Repton’s 1812 design in a way which will both raise its profile at Sheringham as a major example of landscape architecture and place it in a longer and wider environmental history of the site and within longer histories of environmental change: local, regional, national and global.

It will examine the values and narratives of environmental change which shaped the original design process, its symbols and story lines, compare the way the Repton landscape at Sheringham is interpreted and managed to examples of his work on the groun describe how a designed landscape can interpreted as lived in, worked on and moved through as well as looked at.

The project will deploy an understanding of Sheringham’s history to engage with the development of the National Trust’s policies and practices on conservation, heritage and learning, particularly in regard to coastline and woodlands.

The project will produce a series of related outcomes: a small public exhibition at Sheringham Park in July 2012, an academic conference at the University of East Anglia exploring the restoration and interpretation of designed landscapes for public understanding, a scholarly article on the practical and interpretative issues arising from the research on Sheringham, and a landscape and environment trail around Sheringham Park weaving together key locations and views on the Sheringham estate with their environmental and landscape histories.

Furthermore research materials will inform a chapter of the book Living Landscapes and feature on the companion website, as well as being made available for a new edition of the National Trust catalogue for Sheringham Park.

All project members involved in the collaboration will benefit from the research and from the inter-disciplinary process involved in its undertaking.

The National Trust team of employees and volunteers will also benefit from their involvement in the project, in learning from the methods of conducting landscape history and engaging with visitors that will be employed by the research team.

Planned Impact

In addition to the academic beneficiaries outlined above, the research will benefit a number of other groups.

The research process and outcomes will inform future National Trust strategies for visitors and wider policy statements, aiding the process of ‘Bringing properties to life’ and thereby enhancing the visitor experience at Sheringham and elsewhere. The wider membership of the National Trust will benefit through the project’s influence on broad landscape management issues and interpretation. The National Trust cares for many of the nation’s most prized and enjoyed landscapes and the methods and outcomes of this project will therefore benefit not only members of the National Trust but the wider public too, by helping to rethink and prepare properties and landscapes for future environmental change whilst ensuring that the nation can enjoy them. Research materials will also provide useful background for a new version of the visitor guidebook for Sheringham Park. Repton landscapes in other hands will also be interested in the project’s re-framing of the designed, named, landscape.

Visitors to Sheringham during the exhibition (estimated to be on display for one month) will benefit from the enhanced content available in the Visitor Centre. The exhibition will be timed to coincide with the bi-centenary of the publication of Repton’s Red Book in July 2012 and will thus take advantage of a period of renewed interest in the site to engage with visitors to Sheringham Park and those living within the local area. The information displayed will be of contemporary relevance owing to the environmental change frame, prompting visitors to rethink how they interpret the Repton landscape within a wider landscape and environmental history. Sources of further information on the research project (including the web resources) will also be publicised on the display boards.

The landscape and environment trail around Sheringham Park and the wider landscape will utisting structure of footpaths around the estate, but with a new downloadable trail available on the National Trust website. This trail will weave together key locations and views on the Sheringham estate with their environmental and landscape histories. It will explore Repton’s design for the park, whilst also highlighting those landscape features which predate the Red Book of 1812 and the changing nature of tree planting and heathland landscapes, both before and after the creation of the park. There is also access by public footpath from the park to the cliffs and beach at Sheringham, allowing the trail to incorporate material on the changing coastal landscape. The download will include some content from historic maps and other archival sources to illustrate the key themes of the project, which will be explored in more depth in the exhibition. As well as being available as a web download and mobile phone application, the public will also be able to join Dr Sarah Spooner on a guided walk around the estate, giving them the opportunity to use facsimiles of historic documents and maps on the ground with a landscape historian, exposing visitors to both the process and outcomes of research.

The National Trust team of employees and volunteers will also benefit from their involvement in the project, in learning from the methods of conducting landscape history and engaging with visitors that will be employed by the research team.

Publications

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Title Humphry Repton at Sheringham Park: Bringing Landscape to Life, 1812-2012 
Description Archival research on Sheringham Park in north Norfolk (a property of National Trust), and on the landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752-1818), was translated into a new exhibition at the Visitor Centre at Sheringham Park (in association with Ugly Studios). The aim of the exhibition and the wider project was to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the design for Sheringham Park by Humphry Repton in 2012, and to raise Repton's profile at Sheringham.The exhibition originally ran between August 2012 and August 2013 but is still open in the Visitor Centre (November 2014). The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact Ongoing conversations with the National Trust and particularly the team at Sheringham Park. Further funding received for a small extension to the project (see separate award of the same name) and for an exchange project with Hayden Lorimer (University of Glasgow) 'Landscapes estates of the 1800s', also funded by AHRC. Invitation to participate in National Trust 'Uncovered' event with public talks and guided walks. The exhibition prompted Dame Fiona Reynolds (Director General of National Trust) to write to AHRC to express her wishes that the National Trust continue to partner on research activities funded by AHRC. 
URL http://vimeo.com/54938918
 
Title Repton Walk mobile application 
Description Project consultant Sarah Spooner (UEA) has produced a guided walk which follows the existing 'Repton route' through the park. This is accompanied by a mobile phone application for iPhone and android phones, available for free download and developed by Sarah and Ugly Studios. As a result of the project Sheringham Park have hopes to become one of National Trust's Wi-Fi hotspots. The walk is also available in booklet format from the visitor centre broadening its audience. A year's supply of booklets was funded through the project. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact The leaflets proved extremely popular and have been reprinted. 
 
Description We have developed a model of presenting landscape research on site, in an instructive and entertaining way, that both respects the historical period of the work and is accessible to audiences in the present. We were able to do so through teamwork with our NT partners, academic colleagues and the studio we commissioned. We achieved the aim of raising the profile of Repton at Sheringham in a key commemorative year.

Has raised profile of Repton for Bicentenary plans in 2018.
Exploitation Route Our resources are available on the website & published article.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sheringham-park/history/humphry-repton/
 
Description It has strengthened links between NT & AHRC, the exhibiiton has been popular & the installation in place beyond its projected deadline. Informed local site management.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Bringing Landscape to Life: Environmental Histories at Sheringham Park 1812-2012 (Extension)
Amount £15,989 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/L503496/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 08/2013
 
Description Landscaped Estates of the 1800s: Designs on the Future
Amount £48,160 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/L503538/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2013 
End 11/2013
 
Description Partnership with National Trust 
Organisation National Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The project successfully built upon the Landscape and Environment Programme's Impact Fellowship's connections with National Trust where the organisation had been part of the Advisory Board. In this project the collaboration was at an individual property level - Sheringham Park in north Norfolk. We conducted research which we then translated into an exhibition within the Visitor Centre at Sheringham.
Collaborator Contribution It was especially rewarding to be able to develop advisory relationships into work on the ground at a NT property, much of it focused on public engagement. NT staff at Sheringham Park and from head office were closely involved in the project, participating in the workshop at UEA, helping with research, and offering both practical and imaginative guidance regarding the exhibition. All parties were receptive to advice from others and the end result is very much a product of knowledge exchange in all directions.
Impact Humphry Repton at Sheringham Park: Bringing Landscape to Life, 1812-2012, exhibition and catalogue. Website resources for Sheringham Park, including short video. Various talks.
Start Year 2011
 
Description A celebration of the work of James Wyatt and Humphry Repton at Ashridge 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Stephen Daniels gave a talk as part of 'A celebration of the work of James Wyatt and Humphry Repton at Ashridge', 27-28 July 2013. He had been invited following Mick Thompson's attendance of our workshop on Repton and Environmental change held the previous year at UEA. The talk sparked questions and discussion.

Continued conversations with Mick Thompson and a further visit and interview by Lucy Veale which fed into publish paper in Landscape Research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.cla.org.uk/transfers/Eastern/ashridgejuly2013.pdf
 
Description Arts, Buildings, Collections Bulletin feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Ben Cowell (National Trust) and Liz Larby published short articles in the Febraury 2013 edition of the Arts, Buildings, Collections Bulletin published by National Trust.

Publicized research and the exhibition at Sheringham Park.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Cheriscape keynote lecture, July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion.

Ongoing connections with European landscape research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.cheriscape.ugent.be/
 
Description Humphry Repton and Environmental Change, UEA, 18-19 June 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The workshop was held at UEA over the course of 18th and 19th June 2012 and was aimed at researchers, managers, curators, interpreters, owners and appreciators of designed landscapes. The full core project team attended, alongside one advisory member of the team, three members of NT staff from Sheringham Park, and 14 others, a total number of 23 participants. The event began on the afternoon of 18th with a visit to Catton Park, just north of Norwich and site of Repton's first commission in 1788. Consultant on the project Sarah Spooner kindly organised the visit and produced supporting research resources. A workshop dinner in Norwich followed, before the workshop itself the following day at UEA. Two keynote lectures by David Adshead (Head Curator National Trust) and Jonathan Finch (University of York) were combined with four panel discussions on project sub-themes, each of which were opened up to all workshop participants. A summary report of the event was subsequently produced and circulated to all who attended.

Continued conversations with many of those who attended. Invitations to take part in follow up events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Presentation at RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2013, 'Barn Theatre: Bringing Landscape to Life at Sheringham Park, 1812-2012' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk prompted questions and discussion.

Discussion fed into our published paper on the same topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description School of Geography, University of Nottingham lunchtime seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and debate.

Promoted use of research materials within teaching at the University of Nottingham
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012