Lecture / Talk

Thomas White (c 1736 – 1811) Redesigning the northern British landscape’

Louise Wickham
Tempest Anderson Lecture Theatre, York
Thomas White book cover


White was in his time was as well respected as his fellow landscape designers Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. By the end of his career, he had produced designs for at least 32 sites across northern England and over 60 in Scotland. These include nationally important designed landscapes in Yorkshire such as Harewood House, Sledmere House, Burton Constable Hall, Newby Hall and Mulgrave Castle. He therefore had a vital role in the story of how northern English designed landscapes evolved in the 18th century.

White set up as an independent designer in 1765, having worked for Brown from 1759, and his style developed over the next thirty years. Never merely a ‘follower of Brown’, as he is often erroneously described, his designs for plantations in particular were much admired and influenced the later, more informal styles of the picturesque movement. The improvement plans he produced for his clients demonstrated his surveying and artistic skills. These plans were working documents but at the same time works of art in their own right. Over 60 of his beautifully-executed coloured plans survive, which is a testament to the value his clients placed on them. Using later maps, estate surveys and contemporary illustrations, we outline  which parts of improvement plans were implemented and how White carried out his commissions.

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