Garden Guides at Broughton Grange and Rousham

In July 2012 a group of Chiswick Garden Guides visited Broughton Grange and Rousham.

A three century span of landscape gardening, all in one day. Blessed by sunshine, on 5 July 2012 a group of CHGT volunteer guides organised by garden guide Ruth Todd ventured to Oxfordshire. With a particular interest in the work of Lord Burlington’s protégé William Kent, we went to see how two private gardens carry on the idea of the landscape garden which originated at Chiswick.

First stop: 21st century. At Broughton Grange sloped fields cosseting a thoughtful Victorian garden have in the last twenty years become an enlightened expansion of landscape design. Led by Assistant Head Gardener Alistair, we 20 or so guides ooh’d, ah’d, straggled, chatted and asked questions (like our own 'customers' do). So much to appreciate: sculptural yews, a beech pergola with views to a hillcrest a mile distant, the huge new arboretum field dotted with saplings, the magnificent vista over the ten years’ grown arboretum and then the jungly Victorian arboretum through which we wended to the stumpery – weathered tree trunks woven with plants. Alistair returned us to the terraces on three levels to wander the pleasures of the flower-filled walled garden, rectangular stepping-stone pool and parterre of biomorphic shapes. Coffee break and a chance to buy plants gave us time to savour the impact of this visionary garden that blends past and future and truly makes landscape the focus.

Rousham, a short drive away, is a perfect example of how Lord Burlington spread his vision of architecture and garden design. He introduced his friend General James Dormer-Cottrell, owner of Rousham, to William Kent who added handsome, restrained classical wings and interior decoration to the existing 17th c house, plus a Palladian-styled stable block and a sweep of gardens. Garden designer Charles Bridgeman had already laid out some of the grounds, but then came Kent. Astonishingly, the lawns, pathways, cascade, small temples, pavilions and classical statues remain just as he created. He even put in an Inigo Jones style gate… but got a bit Gothick with what the owners call the cow castle. Perhaps equally marvellous, the house and estate is still owned by the same family, and our house guide was Mrs Charles Cottrell-Dormer (the surname switch due to the line of inheritance). We learned that in the 17th c the family had been Royalists, as had Burlington’s ancestors. Kent’s original garden plan is displayed in the house; with hillier geography than Chiswick’s garden we could see that he had more scope to develop his landscape style. We learned in a charming gossipy note that Kent liked visiting his clients for their hospitality but was rather remiss in site visits to check on the execution of his plans. After the house tour we guides wandered over the gardens independently through groves and lawns with a sun-drenched outlook down and across the River Cherwell to a field where a Kentian 'ruin' catches the eye.

Like Burlington’s original garden at Chiswick, both Broughton Grange and Rousham are private homes with landscape gardens designed (and maintained) with vision and commitment. And like Chiswick, then and now, the public is able to partake of these pleasure gardens. If you wish to visit check their websites as they are not always open, and group tours must be arranged in advance. Lucky were we, the CHGT volunteer garden guides, to have this chance to enlarge our understanding – and to have a delightful day out.

Susan Lee Kerr
Chiswick House & Gardens Trust Volunteer
August 2012

The Chiswick House Guides visiting Broughton Grange
Chiswick House Garden Guides visiting Broughton Grange

Kent's Inigo Jones Gate at Rousham
Kent's Inigo Jones Gate at Rousham

Kent's Echo Temple at Rousham
Kent's Echo Temple at Rousham

William Kent's Gothik Temple at Rousham
Kent's Gothik Temple at Rousham

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