Buscot Park’s fascinating history
PUBLISHED: 14:28 11 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:28 11 May 2020
As Buscot Park throws opens its doors for a new influx of visitors, we delve into its fascinating history
Beautiful Buscot Park is a country house set in grounds of over 100 acres, near the town of Faringdon in Oxfordshire.
Built around 1780 for Edward Loveden Loveden, the estate was bought in 1887 by Alexander Henderson, later to be ennobled as Baron Faringdon. After much restoration, the house was restored to its 18th-century glory by the architect Geddes Hyslop, for his grandson and successor, Gavin Henderson, 2nd Baron Faringdon. The art collection founded by the 1st Baron was considerably enlarged, with works including those by Rembrandt and Burne-Jones, protected by the Faringdon Collection Trust.
The house and estate was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1956, and is now occupied and managed by the present Lord Faringdon who moved there with his wife in 1977. He continues with the family love and tradition of collecting fine art.
We spoke to Roger Vlitos, curator of Buscot Park for seven years, to find out more about this magnificent property.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Roger. This is a tall order, but are you able to give us a potted history of the house and grounds?
Buscot House was built on a hill with views over the Thames and four counties in around 1780. It had extensive holdings down to the Thames, with walled vegetable gardens and orchards, woodlands, ‘pleasure grounds’ around the mansion, and three ornamental lakes. This estate passed through several families before it was purchased by Sir Alexander Henderson in 1890. He was a financier and railway owner created Baron Faringdon in 1913. Lord Faringdon commissioned the great Harold Peto’s water garden here between 1904-13. Peto also designed the mansion’s elegant ‘ha-ha’, rear and fore courts.
The current Lord and Lady Faringdon have a deep love of gardens. They have converted the old vegetable walled garden into the Four Season’s Garden; added the Egyptian avenue with the tallest sundial in England, a Swing garden in a woodland glade, the ‘faux falls’, a faux pyramid, converted the old bowling green into a court for Chinese warriors, etc, etc.
The gardens must really be coming into their own right now. What are some of your personal favourite areas at this time of year?
The trimmed line of trees in the old walled garden where hornbeams have been pleached to resemble an avenue of giant green lollipops. These are underplanted with alliums that flower with purple globes the size of grapefruit. This leads up to the ‘faux falls’, a line of polished steel panels with water running over them so that they resemble a waterfall. Every garden needs a touch of fantasy... this one has it in spades.
The Lords Faringdon have been enthusiastic collectors of art, many of which can be viewed in the house. Can you name some highlights?
Sir Edward Burne-Jones’ ‘Legend of the Briar Rose’ – a 34-foot-long retelling of the tale of Sleeping Beauty in ten panels that cover the walls of the saloon. It dates from 1890 and was installed by the artist himself in a frame he designed with William Morris, who added one of his poems at the bottom.
Others are Rembrandt’s portrait of Peter Six; Rossetti’s portrait of Jane Morris as Panadora - with whom the artist had a brief affair; Eric Ravilious’s portrait of the house painted the year before this war artist was lost in action – Ravilious had his fee handed over to a charity for ambulances.
What would be one of the most surprising facts about Buscot Park that we may not be aware of?
The 2nd Lord Faringdon – much loved by his staff – had his ashes interred in an urn which stands in the pleasure grounds. After his death, his partner as well as his housekeeper and chauffeur had their ashes added underneath.
Buscot Park is open to the public Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm from April 1st - Sept 30th.
Visit buscot-park.com for more information.The Information Line (01367 240932) has a recorded message with times of opening. If you prefer, contact the Estate Office by telephone (01367 240786).
Locals may like to check the website for details of musical entertainments in our theatre, as well as events for local children and charities in the grounds.