William Sawrey Gilpin

William Sawrey Gilpin (1761/62 – 4 April 1843) was an English artist and drawing master, and in later life a landscape designer.[1][2]


Gilpin was born at Scaleby Castle, Cumbria[3] on 4 October 1762, the son of the animal painter Sawrey Gilpin. He attended the school of his uncle, William Gilpin (originator of the Picturesque), at Cheam in Surrey. He married Elizabeth Paddock; they had two (or possibly three) sons, one of whom seems to have remained dependent on his father. He died at Sedbury Hall, North Yorkshire, the house of his cousin the Reverend John Gilpin, and is buried nearby in the churchyard at Gilling West.


In the 1780s, Gilpin taught himself the relatively new aquatint process of printmaking, to produce plates to illustrate his uncle's books on picturesque scenery. Gilpin specialised in watercolours; and in 1804 was elected first President of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours.[4] He was patronised by Sir George Beaumont, through whom he met the picturesque theorist Uvedale Price.

Drawing master

In 1806, Gilpin took a post as drawing master at the Royal Military College, Great Marlow (which moved to Sandhurst in 1812), teaching cadets to make accurate records of the landscape and the lie of enemy positions. This apparently secure employment came to a sudden end in 1820, when he was made redundant in a round of post-Napoleonic war cutbacks, at the age of nearly sixty.

Landscape gardener

To support his family, Gilpin turned to a career as a landscape gardener, for which he had little qualification or experience beyond an artist's eye. He was helped and encouraged in this by Uvedale Price, whose theories on picturesque landscaping clearly accorded well with his own ideas. Gilpin's work also shows the influence of the later work of Price's old adversary Humphry Repton, who had died in 1818.

Gilpin seems to have been remarkably successful. In his short landscape design career he reputedly worked at "some hundreds" of sites. Relatively few designs survive on paper or unaltered on the ground. Features employed by Gilpin included amoeba-shaped flower beds, gently curving paths through irregular shrubberies, and raised terrace walks.

Sites where he is known to have worked include:


In 1832, Gilpin published Practical Hints upon Landscape Gardening: with some remarks on Domestic Architecture, as connected with scenery, which ran to a second edition in 1835.

Further reading

  • Amherst, Alicia (2006) [1910]. A History of Gardening in England (3rd ed.). Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing.
  • Blomfield, Sir Reginald; Thomas, F. Inigo, Illustrator (1972) [1901]. The Formal Garden in England, 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan and Co.
  • Clifford, Derek (1967). A History of Garden Design (2nd ed.). New York: Praeger.
  • Gothein, Marie-Luise Schröeter (1863–1931); Wright, Walter P. (1864–1940); Archer-Hind, Laura; Alden Hopkins Collection (1928) [1910]. History of Garden Art. 2. London & Toronto, New York: J. M. Dent; 1928 Dutton. ISBN 978-3-424-00935-4. 945 pages Publisher: Hacker Art Books; Facsimile edition (June 1972) ISBN 0878170081; ISBN 978-0878170081.
  • Gothein, Marie. Geschichte der Gartenkunst. München: Diederichs, 1988 ISBN 978-3-424-00935-4.
  • Hadfield, Miles (1960). Gardening in Britain. Newton, Mass: C. T. Branford.
  • Heath, Gerald; White, Kathy, editor; Heath, Joan. Editor (2000). Hampton Court: The Story of a Village. The Hampton Court Association. ISBN 0-9538700-0-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Hussey, Christopher (1967). English Gardens and Landscapes, 1700–1750. Country Life.
  • Hyams, Edward S.; Smith, Edwin, photos (1964). The English Garden. New York: H.N. Abrams.
  • Thurley, Simon (2003). Hampton Court, A Social and Architectural History. Yale University Press.
  • Sophieke Piebenga, "William Sawrey Gilpin (1762–1843): picturesque improver" in Garden History 22:2 (Garden History Society, 1994)
  • Sophieke Piebenga, "William Sawrey Gilpin, artist and landscape designer" in The Picturesque No. 48, (The Picturesque Society, 2004)


  1. "Obit. William Sawrey Gilpin". Annual Register, 1843. vol. 85. London: F. & J. Rivington. 1844. p. 248.
  2. Sophieke Piebenga, "Gilpin, William Sawrey (1761/2–1843)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, UK: OUP, 2004) Retrieved 20 March 2016. Pay-walled.
  3. Whysall, Andy (September 2003). "Sense of Place: The Life and Death of Dr Syntax". BBC. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  4. Redgrave, Samuel (1878). "Gilpin, William Sawrey". A dictionary of artists of the English school. London: George Bell and Sons. p. 177.
  5. "Shaw Hill, (also known as Shaw Hill Golf Course), Wittle-le-Woods, England". Parks and Gardens UK. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  6. "Marston House, Frome, England". Parks and Gardens UK. Parks and Gardens Data Services Ltd. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  7. "Norfolk Heritage Explorer – Parish Summary: Wickmere". Reference to the design of Wolterton Hall Gardens. Norfolk Heritage Explorer website. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  8. Kevin V. Mulligan, The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster (popularly known as the Pevsner Guide to South Ulster), p. 240. Yale, London, 2013.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.