Bourton House Garden opened to the public for the first time on a single Sunday in 1987 in aid of the National Garden Scheme. Twenty years later, the garden received the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year’ Award, a tribute to everyone involved in its creation over the years. In 2013, the garden received the Cotswolds Tourism ‘Small Visitor Attraction of the Year’ silver award.
In 1983, Mr & Mrs R Paice became the owners of Bourton House and began the task of turning a neglected wilderness into the perfect garden setting for the courtyard of ancient Cotswold stone buildings. Over the years, the garden evolved, new projects were planned and new challenges faced. They were fortunate to have the help of a splendid gardening team, originally headed by Paul Williams followed in 1999 to 2018 by Paul Nicholls and then by Jacky Rae, our current Head Gardener.
Imaginative topiary was introduced including a knot garden, parterre and topiary walk; natural springs used to create water features; an unusual shade house constructed and ever wider herbaceous borders created to accommodate more exotica.
In 2010, Bourton House Garden came under new ownership but remains open for the enjoyment of garden visitors. Today, the garden continues to evolve, constantly surprising visitors with its inspirational planting, stunning colour combinations and rare, unusual and exotic plants.
In 2013, a walk was opened in the seven acre pasture opposite the garden enabling visitors to enjoy the groups of specimen trees planted in 1994/95. A guide to the trees written by Paul Nicholls is available to all visitors to the garden.
Head Gardener Paul Nicholls retired in March 2018 after almost twenty years leading the gardening team. Our Head Gardener is now Jacky Rae, who worked alongside Paul for many years, assisted by Gareth Griffiths and Tom Benfield.
A Brief History of Bourton House
Since Saxon times, the stone-built village of Bourton-on-the-Hill has hugged the Cotswold escarpment. Bourton House and its Brewhouse, Stables and Coach House were built on monastic lands and have created a courtyard since the late 16th century. The Grade I listed Tithe Barn preserves the dedication stone of 1570 with the initials RP for the then owner, Richard Palmer.
The house itself was rebuilt as a foursquare Jacobean house by the eminent lawyer, Sir Nicholas Overbury in 1598. At the beginning of the 18th century, the then unfashionable house was once again rebuilt on the earlier footprint by Alexander Popham, the grandson of a Cromwellian general. The house was taken down to its lower ground floor but the whimsical towers retained, the slits replaced by generous Georgian sash windows. The architect remains unknown. This setting has remained unchanged for over three hundred years.
The lands originally belonging to the manor were sold in 1851 by Sir James Buller East MP, to the neighbouring Sezincote estate. Today Bourton House is surrounded by its immediate three-acre garden and a seven acre walled pasture, now given over to specimen trees.
In 1953 the house and land were sold at auction and there followed a quick succession of owners, six to be exact, until 1983 when the house was acquired by the Paices. The transformation of the neglected garden took place over a twenty five year time frame, and led to the beautiful garden that can be seen today.