1864-71 – Lockinge, Wantage, Oxfordshire

SM 16 – Sep 12

According to his promotional booklet, Picturesque Ferneries and Rock Garden Scenery, the work done in 1864 by James 2 for Robert Loyd-Lindsay and Lady Overstone at Lockinge, near Wantage in Oxfordshire, involved the construction of:

 ‘Waterfalls, Rocky Stream, and Cliffs for Alpines and Ferns.’

This is quite modest in comparison with some of his other projects, but that does not mean he didn’t take as much care over the detail as he did with all his other work.

  Fig 1  –  The Rocky Stream at Lockinge in Summer c1910   (Photo reproduced by kind permission of Thomas Loyd)

Lady Overstone’s father presented the 20,000-acre estate – the largest in Berkshire, and one of the largest in England – to the couple as a wedding present in 1864.   They moved into Lockinge House, and Robert Loyd-Lindsay left the army during the following year to devote more time to its management.   He founded the British Red Cross Society, and was created Baron Wantage of Lockinge by Queen Victoria in 1885, taking his seat in the House of Lords in July of that year.   He continued to take a keen practical interest in the education and welfare of his workers until his death on 10th June 1901.   His title died with him, and Lockinge House was demolished in 1947, but the estate still survives under the management of the Loyd family.[i]

The pictures reproduced in Figs 1 and 2 date from c1910 – nearly fifty years after Robert Loyd-Lindsay engaged James 2 to build his waterfalls and rocky stream.   They clearly reflect a scene of typical ‘Pulhamesque tranquillity’, but, according to James 2’s booklet, the eminent Scottish geologist, Sir Roderick Murchison (1792-1871), put into words the extent to which he – James 2 – had managed to integrate his work so harmoniously into the local landscape.   Walking on the Terrace at Lockinge, he:

‘. . supposed the rocks to be natural to the place; and that the church close by had been built with stone from it.’

James 2 goes on to explain that this work:

‘. . . is part of stone, and part of the Pulhamite formation.’

Fig 2  –  Winter by the Rocky Stream at Lockinge c1910    (Photo reproduced by kind permission of Thomas Loyd)

 He also records that the celebrated Victorian author, Mrs Sarah Ellis, includes a brief description of the rocky stream at Lockinge in her writing.[ii]   He quotes her in his booklet as writing:

‘“. . The stream in its course; first stopped, then divided, and an island remains, giving variety to the scene; or the stream has been driven this way and that by interposing rocks and headlands, and hence its circuitous course, its many rapids and cascades; with an even bed it would never have looked so beautiful as in its varied and unequal flow, sometimes creeping like a silvery serpent among the roots of over-shadowing trees and rocks . . . we actually love it, and sensations are awakened bybeauty that fill us with delight and make us search for it.”

Fig 3  –  The stream enters the Park under the entrance road, and tumbles down over this waterfall


Fig 4  –  Another view of the stream at Lockinge

 ‘Mrs. Ellis also says:  “The effect of a drooping birch springing out from masses of rock and waving its light pendant boughs above the stream, fringed about with bright green ferns, forms a picture on which the eye lingers with delight.”’

One could say exactly the same today.   The approach road to the church at East Lockinge runs over the bridge spanning a small stream that tumbles down over a stepped cascade just inside the boundary of the park, as shown in Fig 3.   The stream then winds along the bottom of its shallow valley until, nearing a bend, one can see the first signs of another of James 2’s beloved ‘cliffs and waterfall’ features – pictured here in Fig 4, which looks back across the stream at the shallow cascade and boulders from a point very close to the one from which the picture in Fig 1 was taken a century ago.  From here, the stream continues under another pathway that leads up to the charming old church, pictured here in Fig 5.


Fig 5  –  The church at Lockinge, with part of the ‘rocky stream’ on the right

[i]    Robert Loyd-Lindsay, Lord Wantage of Lockinge by the Staff of the Dept of Leisure and Arts, Oxfordshire County Council and John Lange.   From website at: http://www.wantage.com/museum.local_history/Lord_Wantage/body_lord_wantage.html

[ii]    The Beautiful in Art and Nature by Sarah Ellis, published by Hurst and Blackett, 1866

One thought on “1864-71 – Lockinge, Wantage, Oxfordshire

  1. Interesting – from where have you found the quote from Robert Murchison, what year and publication date? Hallam’s 1900 account of East Lockinge suggests that Murchison certainly was at the site as he supervised the removal of a fossil find which occurred when the building was being extended. It was taken to the museum of practical geology in Jermyn Street. However it has been difficult to fix a date on that. Lord and Lady Wantage began radically improving Lockinge Manor in the early 1860’s and Murchison died in 1871. Sarah Ellis’ writing maybe helps fix the date on improvements.

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