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Friday, 30 September 2016

The Birth of Landscape Gardening

Rousham Park.

Temple of Echo.
Last weekend we enjoyed a visit to Rousham in Oxfordshire. The House and its beautiful gardens were designed by William Kent (1685–1748). Rousham has been the home of the Dormer family since the mid-1630s.

Kent’s design for the garden, begun c.1738, and those at Stowe, are thought to herald the beginning of the landscape garden movement in Britain. Kent was greatly influenced by Palladio. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown worked under Kent at Stowe and was later a famous landscape gardener in his own right – perhaps the most famous of all. 

Exploring Rousham is rather like stepping into a landscape painting. Not far from the house, longhorn cattle graze peacefully in a large field, safely curtailed by a ha-ha (shades of Mansfield Park). As you stroll further into the park, you encounter classical statues amidst its shady groves.  
Eighteenth century visitors were particularly pleased by the Temple of Echo and the Praeneste terrace. The river Cherwell wends its way around the bottom of the garden in a stately fashion, adding to the atmosphere of tranquillity.
Memorial to Ringwood above the cascade.
Praeneste terrace.

Like Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley, I ‘saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view’. I particularly liked the memorial and poem dedicated to Ringwood, ‘an otter-hound of extraordinary sagacity’.
There’s also a wonderful walled garden with trained apple trees, a pigeon house, and spectacular herbaceous borders.
Pigeon House. It still has a ladder inside.
Dormer monument in the church.
We found time to explore the thirteenth century church, which has many monuments to the Dormer family

All photos © Sue Wilkes.


  1. Hi Sue, here in Surrey we have a great choice of 18th century houses and gardens to see also. Have you seen the series on BBC about the development of the English garden called, The English Garden in Time? I watched the programme about |Stowe. It was very good.Here is a link. You can get all the series on i-player.

  2. Thanks, Tony - I did see the Stowe episode, and very much enjoyed it!