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The garden at Chastleton

View from the roof over the croquet lawn with people playing at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire
View from the roof over the croquet lawn at Chastleton House | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The garden at Chastleton provides an intimate setting for the house, with views from the windows over the topiary, Kitchen Garden and Wilderness. Explore this series of discrete spaces, where you’ll find newly planted flower beds, an abundance of produce and neat croquet lawns.

A series of discrete spaces

There's a unique approach here at Chastleton by conserving and preserving the house in the condition in which it was found. But how does that translate to the garden, where living things grow and change?

The garden nods to changing garden fashions but still largely maintains its original Jacobean layout, dividing spaces according to use, while preserving the secret garden feel of ‘romantic neglect’.

The Best Garden topiary

The Jacobean ‘Pleasaunce’, or Pleasure Garden, was known by the early 1700s as the Best Garden, a name that perfectly sums up its status and relationship to the house. It was accessible only via the Great Parlour and overlooked by the Great Chamber, Fettiplace Room and the Long Gallery. Through it the family and their guests could walk straight to the church.

Topiary came into fashion in Britain following its introduction to Hampton Court in the 1590s. The Chastleton topiary has probably been replanted three times, reaching its peak in the early 20th century. During this time, it was regularly clipped into shapes including a cat, teapot, snail, chicken and peacock among many other designs. However, by the 1970s the topiary was being clipped only once a year and eventually lost their distinct shapes.

A project is under way to restore the Best Garden to a version of what it might have looked like at the turn of the 20th century. Flower beds in and around the central circular feature have been re-cut and planted up, ready to mature and grow over the coming years.

The croquet lawn at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire
The croquet lawn at Chastleton House | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

The croquet lawns

Standing on the north terrace you’ll see the croquet lawns. The games that have been played here reflect changing fashions over the years. For example, in the Jacobean times, these lawns were used to play bowls, and it was popular enough to warrant the building of a viewing terrace, which you can still see today.

The Victorian residents of Chastleton favoured croquet, then tennis. Walter Whitmore Jones codified the rules of croquet on these very lawns and during the summer you can sometimes see some Chastleton volunteers playing a game or two.

The Kitchen Garden and Wilderness Walk

In 1849 John Henry Whitmore Jones enclosed a patch of the adjacent field to make the present Kitchen Garden. When the National Trust took over, this Victorian layout had been replaced by lawn, however it is now fully restored. The produce grown here is sold in the second-hand bookshop, and cut flowers are used in the house. You can pick up some of the seasonal produce grown in the Kitchen Garden to take a taste of Chastleton away with you. (Subject to availability: when it's gone, it's gone!)

The Wilderness was a late Victorian addition and was designed to be natural but neatly maintained. It was more than likely meant to be a perimeter walk of the garden and today you can walk around it and take in the changing views of the house through the seasons.

Visitors in the garden at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire

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