The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rousham House and Gardens

Before visiting Pettifers Garden, I stopped to see Rousham House and Gardens in Oxfordshire. I am also hoping to include Rousham in next year’s tour. Rousham Gardens’ reputation preceded my visit. It is arguably one of the finest gardens in England. Rousham remains a private garden and was surprisingly quiet, especially as compared to another landscape garden we visit, Stourhead, which is owned and operated by the National Trust and had hundreds of visitors when we were there last week. I saw perhaps 10 visitors at Rousham and felt as if I had the garden to myself for the morning.

Rousham is an excellent example of an Augustan age (early 18th century when British artists emulated the original Augustan age in Rome 27 BC-14AD) landscape garden and was designed by William Kent (1685-1748). It is recommended to follow the circuit walk, drawn up prior to 1738 by the head gardener, John MacClary. My photographs follow the circuit which takes the visitor around the perimeter of the garden through a series of water features, statues and follies.

Rousham House and Gardens is still owned by the same family that created it and remains precisely as Kent envisioned. The brochure for Rousham says it all: “Rousham is uncommercial and unspoilt with no tea room and no shop. Bring a picnic, wear comfortable shoes and it is yours for the day.”

Rousham House from the Bowling Green

The view from the house with central statue made in 1740.

The Lion and the Horse by P. Scheemaker

The Octagon Pond

The Upper Cascade with a statue of Venus

The Watery Walk

The serpentine rill in the Watery Walk is elegant and feels contemporary even today

The octagonal Cold Bath

Temple of Echo by Kent and Townsend

 Paladian Doorway

View of the house; the ha-ha can barely be discerned

Statue of Apollo

Heyford Bridge 1255

The reverse view of Apollo through The Long Walk

The Lower Cascade with the Upper Cascade above

The Arcade

The ancient hedges that separate the Bowling Green from the Walled Garden

The Walled Garden predates the work of William Kent

The formal Pigeon House Garden


  1. Did Rousham appeal to you? Reading the post, it is difficult to tell if you were moved by the experience or only by its significance in England garden history.

    1. I did love this garden. I would compare it to other landscape gardens, like Stourhead. It is a wonderful place to contemplate or meditate especially because there were so few people there. I am informed by landscape gardens for the public spaces I work in.That said, a garden like Pettifers or Great Dixter really speaks to me for my private garden. Even though they are both much grander than my personal garden, I understand them both as personal spaces, like my garden.

    2. Michael, I know it's silly to say one garden was a favorite, but on my recent trip to England, I think Rousham was. It's vastly different from my own garden, but I found Rousham to be the "bees' knees" to quote William Martin. Bordering on the spiritual for me.

    3. Yes, Rousham is about as different as a garden can be from your garden. That is one of the things I like so much about gardening: there are so many wonderful and different gardens to enjoy and get a vicarious thrill from.



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