The house has medieval origins with 17th and 19th century additions and is at present owned by the School of Economic Science and used for study days and residential retreats. The gardens are best known for their reputation as a Ladies Horticultural College run by Beatrix Havergal from 1930 to 1971. In the college prospectus of 1937 it says “It is the object of the school to provide the theoretical foundation, the practical knowledge of horticulture, and the specialised skill required to make a first-class gardener.” The school was enormously successful with the produce winning 15 medals at Chelsea Flower Show. Nowadays the 3.2 ha of land is divided into several commercial enterprises – the nursery garden, flower gardens, including the famous herbaceous border, the museum and the café.
Walled Kitchen Garden
The walled garden of c. 0.5 ha, is situated 50 metres east of the house and is adjacent to the Church (Saxon origins) and graveyard. It is mostly rectangular in shape. On the 1st edn OS (1881) map, it is clearly a productive garden with an orangery (also known as the conservatory) and a glasshouse, now referred to as the Old Melon and Vine House. To the north of the north wall was a frameyard with one glasshouse and several cold frames.
Most of the walls are pitted with nails holes and a selection of fruit trees and labels remain, some of which are earlier than those planted by Havergal in the 1930s.
The walls are mostly constructed of brick in English Bond although some sections are limestone rubble. The north wall in the frameyard could possibly be the oldest wall, some 15m of which was removed to create a much larger entrance to the gardens, likely to have been in the Horticultural College era.
Much of the original orchard indicated on the 1st edn OS (1881) map, has now been cultivated as ornamental garden but a still considerable area remains as orchard at the southern most part of the estate.
At present the walled garden, the garden buildings and bothies are part of the garden and visitor centre.
The orangery. Central segmental-arched gateway with iron gate in south wall. Some fruit labels dating from the early 1800s.
The walls of the walled garden and churchyard are listed Grade II by Historic England as structures of architectural and historic interest. Further information is available in the National Heritage List for England.
Degree of completeness
The orangery, the gardener’s office, the potting shed and most of the garden walls are extant however little original planting remains as the garden is now hard surfaced for the plants to be displayed for customers.
Ownership and access
Both ornamental gardens and garden centre open all the year round
Sources of information
Unpublished site survey undertaken by volunteers with Oxfordshire Gardens Trust, September 2013
Map reproduced by permission the National Library of Scotland – Maps
Brick Bonds illustration from The Walled Kitchen Gardens of Oxfordshire p. 17. Oxfordshire Gardens Trust 2014
Name of district
SP 63012 06310
Arrival 27th July 1921
The Botanic Gardens
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’