Our 2016 outing was on the afternoon of Saturday June 11, when we visited Rousham House between Oxford and Banbury.
Those who happened to watch Monty Don’s recent TV programmes on British garden history will need no introduction to Rousham. The house was built in the mid-seventeenth century, and has remained continuously in the possession of the same family since then. Both house and gardens were remodelled about a hundred years later by William Kent who was also involved with Stowe.
As Eleanor Doughty reported in the Telegraph, Monty Don believes Kent was more important in English garden history than Capability Brown: ‘He was the genius’, he says, who originated the idea of the English landscape garden. Brown was ‘incredibly good at what he did – and efficient. Kent was as inefficient and as lazy as he could be, but what he did was to change everything.’
Monty Don’s programme naturally concentrated primarily on the gardens; they are open regularly to the public, and we were able to visit them. However, in the programme we also got tantalising glimpses of the house, which Kent worked on at the same time. This can be visited only by arrangement, in groups, and it is that opportunity which we were able to take on June 11. It made a really interesting outing.
There are no meal facilities at Rousham House, but some of the group gathered for lunch at the nearby Holt Hotel for an enjoyable meal beforehand.