Rousham is a short drive from Bicester and Oxford. I've been there twice, but I only took my camera along with me for my second visit, in September 2000).

Rousham: building Rousham Rousham is a house of some architectural interest but viewed from the outside its charms aren't obvious. Moreover, at the times I've seen it the sun obstinately refused to move anywhere helpful. I've never entered the house; perhaps I will if I go to the park some day and it starts to rain.

It's what is outside the house that's the main attraction of Rousham. Let's approach it via the garden:

Rousham Rousham Rousham Rousham Rousham Rousham Rousham, lotus Rousham, lotus Rousham Rousham Rousham

Pleasant enough, but it's not the garden that so memorable; it's the park. We'd benefit from a little background information, and the best description of the park that I have come across begins with this preamble:

The countryside of England is a softly green and pleasant place, beautiful (in Burke's sense) rather than sublime like the Himalayas, and the gentlemen gardeners of the eighteenth century had little in common with Tibetan Lamaists or followers of Shiva. . . . (Moore et al., 125)


RoushamRousham, remodelled by William Kent in the 1730s, is on one side of the Cherwell, which obligingly makes a picturesque kink. Gardens and parks tend to use water, of course, but this does so more than most. There's a rivulet linking two ponds. (Enterprising town planners have had the same idea in Forchheim, Bavaria.)

Rousham, rivulet Rousham, rivulet Rousham, rivulet

Rousham Dying Gladiator, Rousham statue, Rousham There's plenty of classical statuary. Somebody had tastes that now appear rather morbid: two major attractions are a dying gladiator and a lion devouring a stag.

Here is the river Cherwell at the bottom:

the Cherwell, Rousham the Cherwell, Rousham

Rousham Rousham There are two quasi-bridges, at different heights. At the centre of the one with sculpted swans in front at either side is a memorial stone to a dog, which, to the best of my ability at transcription, reads as follows:

In Front of this Stone lie the Remains of
an OTTER-HOUND of extraordinary Sagacity.

Tyrant of the Cherwell's Flood
Come not near this ſarred Gloom,
Nor, with thy inſulting Brood,
Dare pollute my RINGWOOD's Tomb.

What tho Death has laid him low,
LONG the terror of thy Race,
Couples taught by him to Know,
Taught to force thy lurking Place.

HarK how STUBBORN's airy Tongue
Warns the time to point the Spear,
RUFFUN loud thy Knell has rung,
RULER echoes Death is near.

All the SKies in Concert rend,
BUTLER chears with higheſt glee
Still thy Mayſter and thy friend
RINGWOOD ever thinK on thee

(If "Mayſter" and so forth appear to be garbled, the odd characters are supposed to be "long 's'es" -- and yes, the lowercase "k"s really were incised as capitals.)

I read that there was until recently a figure of Venus over this bridge. I hope she returns.

My digital camera doesn't -- no, my photographic skills don't do it justice. I hope to return later with a real camera and render the park in glorious black and white.

Rousham Rousham Rousham is privately owned and is not administered by the National Trust, "English Heritage" (the Ministry of Works), etc. There's no restaurant, tea shop or tourist shop: you'll have to go elsewhere if you want to buy teddy bears, scented soap or cod-Victoriana. The owner charges a very modest sum for entrance and invites people to bring the wherewithal for picnics (and of course to take the debris away with them). When I was there, a group of about half a dozen people were sharing lunch and a bottle of wine. Check that it is open before you set out for a visit: other web pages give opening times and a telephone number.

Pronunciation: "Rousham" is stressed on the former half ("ROUsh'm"), and pronounced as in "row", meaning uproar ("Last night there was an awful row upstairs"). [top]


Moore, Charles W., William J. Mitchell, and William Turnbull. The poetics of gardens. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1988. (This book devotes ten pages to Rousham. I've been rather naughty in quoting some words of it out of context; read as intended, the description of Rousham is intelligent and informative. Recommended.)

Corrections and comments are welcome. Write to me (Peter Evans), or tell the whole world.

Other snaps


Photos taken on 10 September 2000 (around 2:30 to 4:30). Web page first created as a labor of intense procrastination in odd minutes from June 2001 till January 2002. Last fiddled with 26 June 2004. My thanks to Sarah Paterson for some information.

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