Coleshill House was considered a ‘fashionable house’, designed by Roger Pratt, completed in 1662 and though, not on a grand scale, it was a perfect example in the contemporary European style. Between 1940 and 1954 the British Resistance or Auxiliary Unit commandeered the house as their secret headquarters. It was burned down in 1952, allegedly, because the dormer windows were being stripped of paint with a blowlamp. It passed to the National Trust in 1955. At present the site of the house has been transformed into an ornamental garden with box hedges edging its footprint. Two lodges, a laundry, the clockhouse, stable block and the dovecote are extant.
Walled Kitchen Garden
This rectangular, long-time, productive garden is 2.8 ha and is situated to the north of the stable block and clock house. The garden slopes to the west and is raised 1 metre above the roads which run outside the north and south walls. The east boundary is a clipped beech hedge. The walls of the garden are partly built of limestone rubble and partly brick (English Bond). The walls have evidence of training of fruit trees and although no original trees remain there are various lead labels with visible names.
The 1st edn OS (1876) map indicates that the large garden was divided into several parts, with four separating walls and edged by roadways all around. A centrally placed area indicates a formal garden with a heated glasshouse or conservatory; in the eastern part was a frameyard with several glasshouses and cold frames, adjacent to that a cultivated plot, with an additional glasshouse along the north wall. To the west lay a large cultivated plot and an orchard. In the north west, there was an area designated as The Post Office, with its own discrete garden, which still survives. Buildings included the dovecote (extant), a packing shed (in use), bothies and potting sheds (in use as shop), and two bothies against the north wall. The fish pond is no longer visible.
At present the garden is a commercial organic vegetable garden known as Coleshill Organics. It continues to be divided into sections, though most of the walls are no longer extant (anecdotally knocked down by tractors which were unable to go through openings which were wide enough for horses). New fruit trees have been planted along the north wall and in the orchard and most of the land is cultivated. Polytunnels are now used for cultivation.
The Dovecote is listed at Grade II by Historic England as being of architectural or historic interest. Further information is available in the National Heritage List for England.
Degree of completeness
The external garden walls are complete, however the planting, frameyard and glasshouses are no longer extant.
Ownership and access
Sources of information
Unpublished site survey undertaken by volunteers with Oxfordshire Gardens Trust, November 2012
Name of district
Vale of White Horse
SU 23799 93775
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’