Restoring the gardens at Nuffield Place

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Nuffield Place was once home to one of the richest men of the 20th century.

But, nestled in the Oxfordshire countryside, this comfortable, early 20th century house was where Lord Nuffield, William Morris, lived with his wife Lady Nuffield for 30 years. William was the founder of Morris Motor Cars and one of Britain’s greatest philanthropists and influencers of the 20th century.

A garden to enjoy

The four-acre garden, much like the house, isn’t extravagant. It was created for the personal enjoyment of the Nuffields who both loved to spend time outdoors.

In particular, it was a favourite spot of Lady Nuffield who took on the role of ‘gardener-in-chief’ working alongside three full-time gardeners.

Revival

Today, our garden supervisor, Alex Prain, and a team of 36 volunteers are using old photos from the Morris family archives to help them restore the gardens to how they would have looked in the mid-1950s.

Volunteers scything and raking the driveway at Nuffield Place
Volunteers scything and raking the driveway at Nuffield Place

Here are some of the changes they’ve made so far:

  • The rock garden, one of Lady Nuffield’s most loved areas, had become overgrown. The team removed all the plants and top soil then left the area for a year to allow the invasive weeds to clear. They’ve now filled the rock garden with a variety of alpines and rock plants.
  • The Nuffields planted an avenue of purple-plum that ran across the Red Oak Lawn as part of a circular estate walk. Over the years a number of these trees were lost and the remaining few removed. In 2015, the team replanted the avenue with young trees.
  • The pergola over the paved Rose Walk was in a poor state so the team dismantled it. They've now lovingly rebuilt a new pergola and replanted the roses.
  • In the beech woodland, the team has cleared laurel and holly which was preventing the natural regeneration of the beech trees.
Marbled white in the wildflower meadow
A marbled white butterfly in the wildflower meadow at Nuffield Place, where populations have soared

Going wild

Alex and the team have also been restoring the natural meadow for the benefit of the wildflower and butterfly populations.

To do this, they introduced sheep grazing in 2015 and paths have been mown to discourage visitors taking alternative routes through the natural meadow.

This summer, the meadow came alive with grasshoppers and the populations of meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white and common blue butterflies have soared.

What next?

Next, Alex and the team will be partially restoring the water garden, of which a small rockery, cascade and network of two ponds remain.


Unfortunately the concrete pond liners have cracked badly, meaning they fail to hold water at the moment. We’re looking for anyone who has experience with renovating concrete ponds to help restore these lost features.

Over the winter months, the team will continue to open up the beech woodland and begin to restore a dry stone wall that runs the full length of the tennis lawn.

How can you help?

None of the work that has been achieved would be possible without our team of volunteers.

If you would like to support this project at Nuffield Place, visit our volunteering page and search for opportunities at Nuffield Place.