Rousham and its landscape garden should be a place of pilgrimage for students of the work of William Kent (1685-1748). It represents the first phase of English landscape design and remains almost as Kent left it, one of the few gardens of this date to have escaped alteration.
Many of the features which delighted 18th-century visitors to Rousham are still in situ, such as the ponds and cascades in Venus’s Vale, the Cold Bath, and seven arched Praeneste, Townsend’s Building, the Temple of the Mill, and, on the skyline, a sham ruin known as the ‘Eyecatcher’.
The house, built in 1635 by Sir Robert Dormer, is still in the ownership of the same family. Kent added the wings and the stable block. The south front is almost as Kent left it, but for the replacement of the octagonal glazing with plain glass.
This was unfortunately carried out by the architect St. Aubyn when he added the north side of the house in 1876. Kent made alterations to the interior of the house, which retains some 17th-century panelling and the original staircases, furniture, pictures and bronzes.
Don’t miss the walled garden with its herbaceous borders, small parterre, pigeon house and espalier apple trees. A fine herd of rare Long-Horn cattle are to be seen in the park.
When you visit Rousham you will find it uncommercial and unspoilt with no tea room and no shop. Bring a picnic, wear comfortable shoes and it is yours for the day. Garden writer and broadcaster Monty Don cites this as one of his favourite gardens in the country.
Rousham is also available for wedding receptions, photographic shoots and events such as car club rallies.
Rousham Gardens are open every day of the year from 10.00am. Last admission is at 4.30pm and the gardens close at dusk. Tickets for the garden are £8.00 per person.
Rousham House is only open by prior arrangement. The cost is £15.00 per person, with a minimum fee of £150. Please contact Charles Cottrell-Dormer to book a tour.
Dogs are not allowed in the gardens. No children under 15 are allowed in the gardens without prior permission.
Rousham is roughly 12 miles North of Oxford and about a 15-minute drive from junction 9 of the M40. The nearest station is Heyford (roughly a 15 minute walk away), which is on the Oxford to Banbury line. Trains stop at the station roughly every two hours, Monday to Saturday, with occasional trains on Sunday during the summer months only.
Rousham is also served by some (not all) buses on the S4 route, leaving from Magdalen Street, Oxford or from Banbury Bus Station.
Watch an extract from the second episode of The Secret History of British Gardens (2015), presented by Monty Don.