Historical context

With origins in the 11th century, Greys Court presents a picturesque Elizabethan house, much developed through the centuries and with one surviving tower dating from 1347.  The medieval enlargements by Sir Francis Knollys remained largely unchanged till the 19th century.  The parkland and ha-ha were probably created in the 18th century and the ornamental planting within the medieval enclosure walls date for the most part to the mid-20th century.  From the 1930s it has been the home of the Brunner family.   Lady Brunner was instrumental in re-landscaping the gardens, commissioning work from the architect Francis Pollen and garden designer Kitty Lloyd Jones, amongst others. The property was passed to the National Trust in 1968.

Walled Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden of 0.3 ha, is situated 85 metres east of the house. It is the largest of a series of gardens and has a shelter belt to the north east.  The 1st edn OS (1878) map shows this was a productive garden with two glasshouses, a perimeter path and trees.  The walls dating from 18th, 19th and 20th centuries are made of flint and brick and include some reused medieval dressed stone.

A perimeter path remains and an off-centre cruciform path divides the garden into four sections, which include the orchard (south west), glasshouses (east), vegetable beds (north east) and an ornamental covered walk leading to the 100 year old Wysteria  garden (north west). Two modern reproduction glasshouses are located in the same position as those on the 3rd edn OS (1913) survey.   There is a distinctive modern water feature in the south west corner of the garden and a charming wooden sculpture by Charles Taylor in the south east.  The south facing wall is planted, alternatively, with fig and clematis.  One old apple tree and one old plum tree remain, as well as several lead fruit tree labels.

Two bothies, one for the gardeners and one known as the ‘kitchen bothy’ are built back to back on the north east wall.  They are modern brick and most likely were constructed at the time of the National Trust guardianship.

Current use

Currently the garden is both ornamental and productive.

Special features

Walls

Designation status

Greys Court is included in the Historic England Register of Historic Parks and Gardens at Grade II. The outer and the inner walls of the kitchen garden are listed Grade II as having special architectural or historic interest.

Further information is available in the National Heritage List for England

Degree of completeness

The garden walls are complete, the glasshouses and cold frames reconstructed and planting appropriate to the original layout.

Ownership and access

National Trust

Sources of information

Historic England

British History Online

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

Map reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland – Maps

Name of district

South Oxfordshire

Grid reference

SU 72600 83457

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’