Nuneham Park

Nuneham House

Nuneham House is a Palladian villa, at Nuneham Courtenay in Oxfordshire England. It was built for the Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl Harcourt in 1756. It is owned by Oxford University and is currently used as a retreat centre by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. It is a Grade II* listed building. Lord Harcourt demolished the old village in the 1760s in order to create a landscaped park around his new villa. He removed the village in its entirety, and recreated it along the main Oxford road (now the A4074). The house was built in 1757 by Stiff Leadbetter for the 1st Earl Harcourt, with the interior by James Stuart. Lancelot Capability Brown designed the landscaped grounds.

During World War II, Nuneham House and land around it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and became RAF Nuneham Park. It was a P.R.I.U. or photographic reconnaissance interpretation unit. Examining the photographs taken by aircraft from RAF Benson and other airfields over enemy territory, were not only RAF officers but also small contingents from the Army, Royal Navy and the USAAF. Nissen huts and other, larger, buildings were erected adjacent to the mansion, including a camp cinema which villagers were welcome to attend. The RAF Station continued after the war in the same role until the mid fifties, when the added buildings and roadways were demolished and the estate handed back to the Harcourt family, who sold it to Oxford University.

The Harcourt Arboretum, part of the tree and plant collection of Oxford University's Oxford Botanic Garden, occupies part of what were the grounds of Nuneham House. The village is also home to the Bodleian Library's Nuneham Courtenay Book Repository.


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