How visionary designer Humphry Repton created the glorious squares of London

Exhibition celebrates the bicentenary of the ‘great improver’ who brought a taste of country life to the city

Russell, Bedford, Tavistock and Fitzroy; the roll call of grand architectural squares around Bloomsbury is as familiar to Londoners as the tube stops of the daily commute. Yet only a few of these mighty residential developments near the British Museum still show traces of the luxuriant, leafy gardens once at their centres. Wartime bombing and the pressures of commerce have taken their toll.

Chief among the survivors is the garden of Russell Square, a large public space with circular walkways and criss-crossing, meandering paths that was restored to its original shape in 2002. It stands as the crowning urban legacy of the Suffolk-born designer now widely regarded as a visionary: the 18th-century landscape gardener Humphry Repton, who died 200 years ago this weekend and is being celebrated in a new exhibition at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire.

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