Historical context

The manor house was built by Sir Robert Dormer in the 1630s and enlarged by William Kent in the 1730s. The earliest gardens were established to the north of the house (the present bowling green) and a walled garden containing a dovecote was to the east. The pleasure gardens were laid out by Charles Bridgeman and subsequently remodelled by William Kent. The grounds and house remain in the same family and the landscaped gardens are largely unaltered since the 18th century.

Walled Kitchen Garden

The walled gardens lie to the east of the house and stables and comprise three connecting walled kitchen gardens covering 1.0 ha, and originally two orchards to the east covering another 0.27 ha.

The earliest walled garden, the Pigeon House Garden with frameyard, is shown on the 1st edn OS (1875) map to contain a dovecote, several glasshouses and other buildings. The original glasshouses no longer survive. There is a two-storey stone gardener’s house or produce store at the south-east corner. On the north wall is a brick bothy or boiler house built to the rear of one glasshouse, and the frameyard contains a late 19th century brick bothy at the north-west corner.

To the north, the largest or main kitchen garden lies on an east-west axis with the principal pedestrian gateway to the kitchen gardens at the south-west corner. The north wall once had a 20 metre long glasshouse half way along, which was heated via a boiler house located outside the north wall, shown on the 1st edn OS map.

To the east of this garden is a walled vegetable garden. Further east is a walled orchard and originally there was an additional part-walled orchard to the north and east. A further very small walled enclosure connects the three main kitchen gardens to St James’s churchyard to the east.

The inner walls of the main kitchen garden, and also its outer west wall, comprise brick in Flemish Bond, with areas of English Garden Wall bond including the site of the former glasshouse. All the other inner and outer walls are coursed limestone rubble. Copings are limestone. The original paths survive except for the north side of the main kitchen garden.

Current use

Productive and ornamental. The main kitchen garden has fruit trees lining the walls and along the central east-west path, plus wide herbaceous borders. The vegetable garden is in full productive use for vegetable, fruit and flowers. The Pigeon House Garden has several mature fruit trees. The walled orchard contains principally mature apple trees but the second orchard no longer survives.

Special features

Dovecote, with date stone 1685.  Plant labels survive on several old fruit trees. Main kitchen garden has a stone well, a small dipping pond at the centre, and brick footings of a boiler house outside the north wall.

Designation status

Rousham Park is included in the Historic England, Grade I, Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, and the walled kitchen garden lies within this. The circular dovecote is listed Grade II* as being a structure of architectural and historic interest.

Degree of completeness

Good. The original greenhouses no longer survive although footings and other traces are visible.

Ownership and access

Privately owned. Open regularly to the public: Rousham Park

Sources of information

British History Online

Unpublished site survey undertaken by volunteers with Oxfordshire Gardens Trust, November 2012 to September 2013.

Map reproduced by permission the National Library of Scotland –  Maps

Name of district

West Oxfordshire

Grid reference

SP 47974  24220

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’