A unique serpentine walled garden in Headington
The present Ruskin walled garden was created in the eighteenth century by the Finch family, who lived in the Rookery to the south for 200 years. Beside the southern entrance to the walled garden is an inscription (right) reading: D+W / M+N / F W×M / 1733. The last part must refer to William & Mary Finch, who married in 1696 and would have inherited the Rookery from William’s father Abraham in about 1733; but it is thought that these stones were moved from elsewhere on the Rookery site. The Enclosure Award map of 1804 (see detail below) shows how close the walled garden was to the main house. When the Finch family died out in 1858, the house was first let out to the Revd Dr Arnold, and then to the Revd J. W. A. Taylor, who started a boys’ pre-enclosure award school there and soon (1863) bought the house. The Revd Taylor advertised thus for a gardener in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 23 June 1866: “Wanted, at the Rookery, Headington. A gardener: he must be able to take charge of a flower and fruit garden, and understand the management of a horse and cow, and be willing to make himself generally useful.”
No doubt the walled garden provided vegetables and fruit for the boys in this period. The 1898 OS map of Headington (see extract below right) shows buildings (probably sheds and glasshouses) attached to the outside of the east garden wall.
Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 12 August 1882 reported that Mr Wheeler, gardener to the Rev. Taylor of The Rookery, won third prize in the “Collection of cut blooms” section of the Headington Horticultural Show; and on 4 December 1886 that Mr W. S. Gibson of The Rookery won second prize in the “Six dishes of Apples, distinct” section of the Headington Winter Flower & Fruit Show. For a detailed history of the Garden and the Rookery follow the links to Stephanie Jenkins more detailed websites below.