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The garden at Chastleton

Summer plants blooming around an entrance through the topiary in the Best Garden at Chastleton
The Best Garden in summer | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Discover a series of discrete spaces which provide an intimate setting for the house. Within high protective walls, our gardens exude a sense of peace and relaxation. The newly-restored Best Garden offers changing floral displays from May to September, and an abundance of produce is harvested from the Kitchen Garden in autumn. Clipped topiary and neat croquet lawns are contrasted with the more natural Wilderness Walk.

We take a unique approach here at Chastleton, 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 fashions but still largely maintains its original Jacobean layout, dividing spaces according to use and preserving a secret, private feel.

The Best Garden

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 the hedges eventually lost their distinct shapes.

Last year, we finished a project 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, planted up, and will mature and grow over the coming years to provide big, colourful displays in the summer months.

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 on a dry day between May and September visitors are welcome to play a game on the lawns.

The Kitchen Garden and Wilderness Walk

In 1849 John Henry Whitmore Jones enclosed a patch of an adjacent field to make the present Kitchen Garden. When the National Trust took over in the early 1990s, the 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 Walk was a late Victorian addition, designed to be natural but neatly maintained. It was more than likely meant to be a perimeter walk of the garden. Today you can walk around it and take in the changing views of the house through the seasons.

People walking away from the south front of the house at Chastleton

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