Historical context

The origins of Yarnton Manor go back to Norman times. The house belonged to the Spencer family from 1580 to 1712, and around 1611 Sir Thomas Spencer transformed it into one of the largest Jacobean houses in the country. He rebuilt it to fill three sides of a courtyard, with wings projecting from the ends of today’s house towards the adjoining church of St Bartholomew. The north and south wings were removed in the late 17th century but in 1897 Thomas Garner restored the property.

Walled kitchen garden

The main gardens are formal, walled and Jacobean in style, and they lie to the south-west and south-east of the Manor. Thomas Garner was responsible for reinstating gardens round the house using the bones of an existing layout, probably early 17th century, as the basis for his design.

The productive walled kitchen garden is located on the west side of the property, bounded by a hedge on the east side and walls to the north, west and south. A boiler house is located in the west wall, currently used as a potting shed. Two old vines are planted on the west wall, one still within a 20th century glasshouse.

Current use

Educational centre (Oxford Royale Academy).

Special features

In the main garden there are early 17th century features and late Victorian features including raised walks, a gazebo, a terrace, a sunken flower garden, and an ornamental stone gateway leading to a pleached lime alley.

Designation status

The walled kitchen garden is included in the landscape garden that lies within Historic England’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens at Grade II. Further information is available in the National Heritage List for England: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001248

Buildings and structures listed by Historic England for their special architectural or historic interest are the Manor House (Grade II*) and the terrace walk with attached gazebo, walls and gateways (Grade II).

Degree of completeness

Current size of park and garden is 10 hectares.  Reinstated in late 19th century.

Ownership and access

Private ownership, not open to the public

Sources of Information

Parks and Gardens – Yarnton Manor

Yarnton Manor

Name of district


Grid reference

SP 476 116

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’