There seems to be little detail about the garden layout in Lord Courtauld-Thomson's time although the Country Life articles written by Christopher Hussey and published on 7th and 15th December 1951 show a number of images relating to the garden. These images reveal features, such as the Dell (Sunken Garden) and the Street are already well-established and are maintained to a high standard, the lawns are stripped, the lawn edges are clipped tight and the flower borders appear weed-free. The south front of the house is covered in climbing plants and there are small trees planted on the Croquet Lawn.
The main difference from today are the areas immediately around the main house. These areas have lost their tree cover, this is especially noticeable where the trees are no longer present in the Courtyard (Forecourt).
Extracts taken from National Trust Archaeological Survey by W. L Matthews, and Val Kempter, 1992.
The following buildings are of national significance:
Dorneywood House (SU 93828482)
The Barn and Cart Shed (SU93838487)
The Elizabethan Cottage (SU03868486)
The Gazebo (SU93818485)
All of the above buildings are considered of National Importance due to their Grade II listing.
The following garden features and character areas are of local significance.
The Garden appears on the 1782 John Field map. The farm and its surrounds is in its present position and is depicted schematically. The semi-circular outline to the east of the house on the Dorney tithe map of 1847 may be the edge of the pit now the Dell (Sunken Garden).
The 1878 O.S. map shows the garden area extended slightly to the east, and with an aviary. The 1899 O.S. map shows further garden extensions to the south and west that give almost the present garden layout, although by this time the aviary has been removed. The modern farm is no longer a working farm and the buildings have other uses. The current garden area is slightly larger then shown in the O.S. maps having been extended a little further south east.
The Dorneywood garden covers some six acres (2.4 hectares) including all of the buildings; the actual size of the garden is about four acres (1.6 hectares) in size.
The Dell (Sunken Garden)
This is almost certainly the landscape remains of a clay pit; it is oval in shape, approximately 16m wide, 12m long and 6m deep. It is east of the House and is overlooked by the bow window of the Music Room. During Lord Courtauld-Thomson's residence this was a rose garden. In November 1968, Graham Stuart Thomas created a series of planting plans that were implemented. The Sunken Garden was redesigned in 1988 by either John Sales or Jim Marshall.
There is a well within the Dell (Sunken Garden) which is situated about halfway between the bottom and the east edge. It is an octagonal well with a head built of brick about 1m high and 1.5m across. There is a well marked at the site on the 1879 O.S. map. The 1782 map does not indicate the location of a well, but does name the enclosure that now contains it as Well Field.
A short length of wall about 75m in length creates the ha-ha to the south of the garden between the croquet lawn and the parkland. The wall is of flint on a brick base with a brick top edge and is about 1m in height. The ditch is on the parkland side, slopes up and is about 2m wide. The construction is probably 20th century. There is a line of trees in the parkland that appears on all of the O.S. maps from 1781 to 1930.
There is a small swimming pool to the west of the house with an associated small wooden-framed weather-boarded building. The building is covered by an old clay-tiled hipped roof. Adjacent and to the north west of the pool is another small building with a hipped old clay-tiled roof. This was the Apple Store and was timber-framed weather-boarded.
The Kitchen Garden also appears to be within the remains of a clay pit but not so large and distinct as the Dell (Sunken Garden). It does not seem to be marked on any other maps apart from the John Field farm plan of 1782.
Former Rose Garden
The 1878 O.S. map marks this area as a rectagular building approximately where the rose garden is today, it is noted as an "aviary." The building does not appear on the 1899 O.S. map. The rose garden was laid out in 1985 to plans drawn up by Mike Calnan, although there is a 1984 plan produced by Philip Cotton (then Head Gardener of Cliveden). It has also been referred to as the "Whitelaw Rose Garden" after Viscount Whitelaw who was Home Secretary and resided at Dorneywood between 1979 and 1988.
The Drive at its west end is causewayed across a worked out clay pit or dry pond shown on the 1847 Tithe map, which is to the north and south of it. The pit on the south side extends to the east as a large ditch-like feature along the south side of the drive. The drive is lined on both sides with staddlestones, a number of which are to be found in other places in the garden.
Our resident gardener works alongside a team from The Plant Specialist from Great Missenden who have maintained the garden since 2019. The main challenge is to retain the character of the garden with modern planting schemes whilst focusing on environmental sustainability and keeping maintenance costs down.
We hope that you enjoy the garden.