A collection of documents that had been accumulated at Aylsham by local solicitor William Repton (1783–1858), fourth son of the landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752–1818), is held at the Huntington Library, San Marino (California). The most significant items are just over 200 letters, dating from 1805 to 1816. The 55 letters written by Repton senior, who lived at Hare Street (Essex), shed light on some of his private thoughts and attitudes, at times somewhat negative, written as they were towards the end of his life, which, although successful in terms of renown, had been rather less successful financially. Several of the other letters provide details of how his business was conducted. The letters, or postscripts, from all of Repton’s immediate relatives reveal a close-knit family concerned about each other’s well-being and gossiping about friends and acquaintances in Norfolk and Essex, thus disclosing much about local society in and around Aylsham and Hare Street. There are also a number of business letters addressed to William, and his draft replies, which shine a valuable light on the work of an early nineteenth-century country attorney.
In the Introduction are biographies of each family member, some of whom have been overlooked in other publications. There is also a discussion of commissions of Repton’s that are revealed in these letters and not mentioned in any other sources: some previously noted, others newly discovered. Finally the contemporary postal system is explained as the Reptons frequently tried to reduce charges by squeezing text onto both sides of a single sheet, or by obtaining a free frank.