Oxfordshire – Adderbury


3 miles south of Banbury, north Oxfordshire.

An interesting one to start with, where the estate appears to have become fragmented over the years. Information, at least from a  desktop survey appears to be scarce on the Capability Brown front, but a fully completed Brown landscape this unfortunately is not. It is however situated in a thriving rural village community, in a beautiful part of the country, and is clearly woven with much history and intrigue.


A village website exists via the link below with some basic information, particularly relating to the village and its history.

In short, the Brown design doesn’t appear to have been executed during his lifetime, but early in the 19th century by William Hunt Chamberlain. A sketch by Brown is said to exist in one of Brown’s workbooks, and I would assume therefore that an ice-house, summer-house, garden seat and boat house were also planned by Brown and eventually built in the 19th century.


Upper lake at Adderbury

The remains of the ice-house are listed and can still be visited. The bramble covered dome appears in good condition, with steps down to a locked entrance grille. There’s also a ‘much-reduced’, but restored summer house. The listed features throughout the village of  Adderbury are many, and a scroll through suggests many relate to various structures that would have been found throughout a country house estate during the 18th and 19th centuries, indeed one particular access to the lake from the north-east is “via long wall footpath, through a doorway in the wall’. The best access I found was via ‘Lake Walk’, but parking is limited.

On my visit, masses of snowdrops were finished but Ramsons and Lords and Ladies were through and away. Relocated silt from the dredging had been formed to make new lake edges, and it was interesting to see this mid way through the process. Mature trees lined the footpaths, and a mighty Plane tree stood proud above the upper lake. It had taken me some time to discover and visit this location, but it was worth the effort.


As for Adderbury House, viewed through the hedge and atop the hill, this was rebuilt/designed in 1768 by Sir William Chambers for Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch. It is said to have been completely rebuilt in the early 1800s, though still features 18th century details. It is presently privately owned. The house, or at least its predecessor is also linked to John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. The house was at one point owned by Oxfordshire Council and used as a retirement home, but what does become clear is that the future of the house is far from certain, and its complex past may not yet be over. From the outside at least, all appears very tidy and in good order.


A glimpse of the house from the lakeside.

Looking from above, the google map shows a lake edge smudged by tree cover, which hides the grand effort being made by local volunteers who are working on behalf of the community to restore this valuable area. On a visit in April 2013, I bumped into a small team planting a hedgerow, who were glad to update me as to the progress so far. Delicate restoration of the lake is well advanced, recieving welcome funding from Viridor, and I can see this wonderful wildlife haven and its historical features are well cared for.

It is so refreshing to see that far from being a private lake at the foot of a splendid little estate; it’s a venue with its own character. Maybe it isn’t a destination for masses of visitors, but the lakes have developed into a valuable local facility. As discussed with individuals on site, the Brown connection seems clear, and even though this lake was produced some time after Brown’s death, it is clearly well laid out, and much landscaping would have been required to create this masterpiece.


The upper lake at Adderbury, just above the waterfall.

As you’ve probably picked up, this ‘Brown’ landscape feature is one of mystery, and it would be lovely to see more details emerge in due course. For now however, it is good to see a more stable future for this lake.

I’m keen to watch this landscape develop, and would be happy to update this post should more, or more accurate information come to the fore. If you do make a visit, I would urge to tread lightly, and please respect the hard work and devotion of the people who are working hard towards recreation of this landscape/lake garden.

In addition to my post above, a very helpful  member of the Adderbury History Association and Adderbury Lakes Committee offered some additional text to inform those with a thirst for more knowledge or maybe a visit. As follows:

“The present Adderbury Lakes Nature Reserve (Conservation Area) was originally created from a shallow, boggy valley in the late 18th Century as two ornamental waters, that, as a feature were an integral part of the Parkland surrounding Adderbury House (Capability Brown’s day workbook shows an undated design for the valley of a single, long, narrow lake). There is no evidence as far as we are aware that his involvement went any further than that sketch.

There is both an upper and lower lake with a waterfall between and a boggy area below the lower lake.

Access is easy either through a gate at Wall end or next to a small car park in Lake Walk.

The Lakes have Local Nature Reserve status. Much progress has been made in recent years to restore the site and also to encourage wildlife habitat. There are regular working parties and the Lakes Management Committee are part of the Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum. Funding for a major desilting project has been secured and much needed work should start shortly.

The ice house, is in reasonable condition for its age and is situated down from the Lake Walk entrance to the Lakes and is not now part of the Adderbury House estate. There is a ‘summer house’ by the Lakes which was rebuilt as part of the restoration work in the 1980s.”

Many thanks to Ros Bailey for the helpful comments.

Location – Google Map

Adderbury Village Website

Adderbury Lake Images

Adderbury House Listing Information

Other reading most helpful in preparation for this post:

Capability Brown And The Eighteenth Century English Landscape. Roger Turner


About Lancelot Capability Brown

Hello and Welcome to my Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown blog! I thrive on the richness and diversity found within our historic gardens and landscapes and I hope through this blog to paint a picture of Lancelot Brown’s 18th Century world, his landscapes and life. I’d like this blog to spread the Brownian word far and wide, so please join in, suggest post subjects, send in potential articles or links to anything and everything with 'Capability'. I’ll also be looking forward to the Capability Brown Tercentenary Celebration of his birth in 2016, and look forward to an incredible year where the work of Brown can receive more praise and recognition than ever before. I've also launched a Twitter account under the title of @Brown2016 where for the next few years I plan to help spread the word and at the very least play my part in the build-up to a special year for all who enjoy landscape gardening in its true form. All views are my own and do not represent those of any organisation.
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