Historical context

The Tudor house, c 1630, was built by William Wyckham on the site of monastic buildings formerly belonging to Abingdon Abbey but is best known as the home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, the Bloomsbury socialite. Bought by the Morrells in 1914, they engaged Philip Tilden to restore the crumbling farmhouse whilst simultaneously Lady Ottoline redesigned the gardens, inspired by the Villa Capponi, Italy.  As well as the famous yew garden there is an interlinked Italian garden of yew hedges enclosing a large ornamental pool, a wild garden and two monastic fish ponds, possibly medieval.

Walled Kitchen Garden

The garden of 0.15 ha lies to the east of the house.  It is rectangular in shape and is adjacent to the house and terrace on the west, a frameyard to the north, and an open barn to the east. The south wall, which looks towards the dovecote, is a low retaining wall.

The 1st edn OS (1881) map indicates that this was a productive garden, with perimeter paths, three large beds and a glasshouse against the north wall. In the frameyard, garden buildings  and a further glasshouse against north wall are indicated.  The north, east and west walls are constructed variously of limestone rubble and brick, in both English, Flemish bond and English Garden Wall Bonds. The south retaining wall is dry stone walling. There are buttresses against the north wall both inside and out.

The glasshouse inside the garden on the north wall is no longer extant. There are three glasshouses, (one of arched concrete construction with a metal frame, a good example of a 1950s construction), two cold frames, a gardener’s bothy, pigstys, a gardener’s wc and the remnants of a coal store, in the frameyard.

Current use

The garden was redesigned in the 1930s and now presents as an Italianate garden of 24 parterres with box hedging and Irish yews.

Special features

The classical statue of a female on the centre of the east wall.  The unusual trapezium shaped bastion in the south wall, protruding into the lower lawn, set with classical stone seats.

Designation status

Garsington Manor garden is included in the Historic England Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, Grade II*.  Further information is available in the National Heritage List for England.

Degree of completeness

The 1930s garden and the walls are in good condition.  The 1950s glasshouse and frameyard are currently in use.

Ownership and access

Privately owned, not open to the public except occasionally through NGS.

Sources of information

Heritage Gateway

Unpublished site survey undertaken by volunteers with Oxfordshire Gardens Trust, February 2013

Map reproduced by permission the National Library of Scotland – Maps

Name of district

South Oxfordshire

Grid reference

SP 58275 01962

Arrival 27th July 1921

The Botanic Gardens

Magdalen College

The bike ride from Woodstock to Oxford would have been along the same road as today but a much quieter road. The 1921 [Oxford and District special edition one inch map] shows the road  passing by Yarnton, over the Oxford Canal, through Peartree Hill, past Upper Wolvercote and down the Woodstock Road. As Loyal and Sam arrived in Oxford on the afternoon of the 27th July, it was possibly quite a leisurely ride.

The following day they manage to squeeze in visits to the Botanic Gardens, Magdalen College, a glimpse of Merton, lunch at the University Museum, a flash past Wadham, St John’s College, the Bodleian (Duke Humphrey’s), the Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College.

In the Botanic Gardens Loyal was able to identify a tree that he had been unable to at Blenheim – (possibly) the ‘Cypress’ planted by ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II.  The specimen he recognised at the Botanic Gardens was a Taxodium disticheum – the cypress that Loyal may have been familiar with from the swampy south eastern States of America.  The tree planted in 1840 was unfortunately severely damaged by a freak gust of wind and the top snapped off.  It had to be felled in 1995.  To celebrate the 400 anniversary of the gardens (2021) it has been decided to plant a Taxodium very close to the original spot where the first tree grew.

Just over the road at Magdalen College, Loyal was greatly impressed with the ‘most beautiful tower  . . .but the finest thing there is the meadow with the deer, the walk along the Cherwell and best of all Addison’s walk with the beautiful trees overhanging’