High Wall was constructed in 1910 for Miss Katherine J D Feilden to the design of Walter Cave FRIBA. The house is positioned in the north-eastern corner of the steeply sloping site on Headington Hill, the landscape exerting an influence on both the house and its grounds. Miss Feilden lived at High Wall from the early 1900s until the Second World War. She relinquished the house twice during her tenure: in the First World War the house
was used for officer casualties and then in the Second World War as a Joint War Organisation Auxiliary Hospital. Both
uses are commemorated by citations displayed in the house. High Wall was let throughout the 1960s, until 1970 when it was sold to the late Dr Brian Beynon Lloyd, CBE, Emeritus Fellow of Magdalen College Oxford and the first Director of Oxford Polytechnic, now Oxford Brookes University.
The entrance to High Wall is marked by large wrought iron gates set in the eastern boundary wall. The gates open onto a large square forecourt, its walls and the dominant presence of mature trees echo the narrow wooded approach to the house. Shallow steps leads from the forecourt, flanked on either side by a low curving wall that separates the higher main court from a smaller stone paved entrance court below, sheltered by the projecting north and south wings of the house. A soaring 12-light window forms the focal point of the eastern elevation, providing light to the upper hall and staircase within. The entrance is unexpectedly offset, tucked into the south-eastern corner of the house at a right angle to the main façade. Above the double oak doors is a carved stone plaque; at its centre are five lozenges set against a background of curlicues and foliage, the top corners are occupied by the initials K and F and beneath are the number 19 and 10 which may be read as the date the house was topped out. An entrance lobby opens into the upper hall, a space delineated by Tuscan pillars with carved Ionic capitals. Oak steps descend from the upper hall to the reception hall, a
change in level that recalls the transition from forecourt to lower entrance court at the front of the house. The reception hall is panelled in oak with a beamed ceiling, which brings both depth and warmth into the room. A central bay with a glazed oak door opens onto the west arm of the upper terrace to provide expansive views along one of the principal axes of the garden. The upper hall and reception hall are lit from the east by the mullioned and transomed 12-light window. Depicted in enamelled glass on the lower lights are four Anglo Saxon female figures,
each with a connection to Miss Feilden's life, the layout and
construction of High Wall and its location on Headington Hill.
Adjoining the reception hall in the north-west corner of the house is the dining room. More ornate in style, a dentilled cornice traces the walls with an elaborate ceiling garland and carved ribbons, fruit and foliage on the fire surround and over-mantel. The rest of the north wing comprises the domestic quarters of the house with a utility room, study/bedroom, breakfast room, larder and kitchen. A staircase adjacent to the kitchen provides access to the extensive basement of High Wall with wine cellar, WC, workshop, wood store, boiler room (the house has full gas-fired central heating with a number of radiators in the main
rooms concealed behind the panelling) and extensive cellars
beyond. A sliding door leads from the upper hall to an interconnecting hall that links the reception rooms located in the south wing. Occupying its south-west corner is an oak-panelled drawing room, which is larger than originally planned as it was extended to accommodate a flower room, mentioned in Lawrence Weaver's article in Country Life on 10 November 1917 and evident in the accompanying floor plan1. To the south-east is a study, its bay window reflecting that of the drawing room and an alcove with Italianate glass wall and floor tiling. Central to the south façade is the loggia, its shapely arches acting as individual frames that capture subtly different views of the garden. An oak staircase with broad treads and gentle risers ascends from the upper hall to a panelled long gallery that connects the north and south wings of the house. At its far end is a fireplace, which features an Egyptian bas relief in code stone, set into the over-mantel, with the letters K and A carved
into the stone of the fireplace. A seat is provided in the space
below the windows to the front of the house at a right angle
to the fireplace.
On the first floor there are seven bedrooms and the master suite which occupies the majority of the south wing. The master bedroom is located on the south-western corner and views of the grounds and gardens are exploited by its dual aspect; beyond are the dressing room and en suite bathroom with all its original features (all the house bathrooms and WCs have the
original Italianate glass wall and floor tiling in place). Also on the first floor is the library with cedar wood shelves and a deep window seat that provides an ideal vantage point from which
to contemplate the upper terrace and gardens. The arrangement of rooms at the northern end of the house reflects the domestic quarters on the ground floor with a kitchenette, four/five bedrooms, and bathroom, all connected to the ground floor by a back staircase. Access to the loft space is via a ladder outside the bathroom.
Cave's decision to position the house close to the northeastern
boundary capitalises on the landscape of the site. Its boundaries to the east and south screen the property while the Italianate gardens flow away from the main house in a series of terraces and lawns. The eponymous high wall runs diagonally from the east where it turns and crosses the southern boundary. This change in direction creates a sharp angle that is tempered by a
curved pergola, sweeping out from a central pavilion at the far end of the south lawn. Tuscan columns with pad capitals support oak running beams and cross beams throughout the pergola, its construction reflecting forms from Cave's interior design. The east side of the pergola is covered with the original vine which produces a good colour display in the autumn. Nestled behind
the pavilion is a narrow curving stone staircase that rises steeply to a wooden door in the wall. The south lawn is of sufficient size for lawn tennis or croquet and on the eastern pergola walk, a border of white flowering yuccas leads back into a well planted
triangular bed with shrubs and flowers including roses, hydrangeas, fuchsias, elderflower, geraniums and salvias;
planting that is repeated elsewhere. A further triangular terraced area has a border that is planted with photinias,day lilies and a variety of prunus trees, lilac, holly andbeech. Behind this planting is a walk along the foot of the high wall' and at the eastern end of this walk, at the highest point in the garden, the view takes the eye to Wytham on the far side of Oxford and the Thames. The two planters on either side of the steps rising to the high wall' path and then the gate to the forecourt are planted with juniper, beech and hellebores. The few steps rising
from this path to access the forecourt have planters with
The southern and western elevations are unified by broad terraces that enfold the house and descend to the lawns below. Spanning the west façade is the main terrace, bounded by a stone balustrade with a central projection that follows the line of the middle bay on the west façade. Also enfolding the house
are borders planted with fuchsisas, bays, salvias, roses, rosemary and geraniums with a lavender bed
reaching the whole length of the balustrading. The use of bays in the main planters flanking the steps from both the south lawn and the upper terrace reflects the Italianate style of the garden.
Below is the fountain terrace, characterised by four rectangles of herringbone brick with central stone paving. The projection of the upper terrace provides a backdrop for the graceful sinuous lines of a stone fountain surrounded by an original wisteria. At the eastern end of the terrace is an octagonal pool, which provides an additional feature when it is approached from the pergola walk of the south lawn. This is surrounded by yew hedging and bamboo with geranium under planting. Steps lead from the fountain terrace down to a lawned terrace, which is screened from view by a low yew hedge topped by topiary balls in golden yew. A long stretch of lawn thought to be an archery or bowls lawn runs parallel to the retaining brick wall that supports the pergola walk. This wall has a number of old fruit trees along its length. At the end of the lawn can be seen the bridge constructed in 1975 to allow access from the south lawn to the lower lawns. A further set of shallow stone steps descend to the west lawn and extending out from the steps is the skeleton of a path that once led to a rose garden but which is now grassed over. Planters on both sides of these steps include lavender, repeating from the main bed above, fuchsias and
tall cypresses. Running along the north side of the lawn is a somewhat overgrown rill that wends its way past a stone summerhouse and flows via several small feeder pools into a pair of larger pools below. A variety of mature trees enclose the west lawn, including horse chestnut, yew, rowan, prunus, birch, magnolia, Scots pine, sycamore and oak. On the north-western side of the house there is a gated utilities area allowing vehicular access close to the cellars/workshop and up via a stone stair to the domestic quarters. The gardens at High Wall were registered as Grade II by English Heritage in 1998 and their design is
attributed solely to Harold Peto, as in Lawrence Weaver's article in Country Life on 17 November 19172. However, more recent studies of the house and its grounds have suggested either a collaboration between Walter Cave and Harold Peto3 or that Cave was in fact architect of the whole4. Although there may be
differing hypotheses regarding the house and grounds the unifying theme is one of mutability; shifts in symmetry and changes in direction and levels both surprise the observer and invite exploration. Pevsner described High Wall as a very handsome big house in the C17 style'5 but to visit High Wall is
to go beyond this laconic description. It is a fascinating property both in terms of its architecture and garden design and offers an unparalleled opportunity to purchase a country house set in the city of Oxford.
1. Weaver, L. The Lesser Country Houses of To-Day: High Wall,
Oxford, designed by Mr. Walter Cave. Country Life 10 November 1917
2. Weaver, L. The Lesser Country Houses of To-Day: The Garden At High Wall, Oxford, designed by Mr. Peto. Country Life 17 November 1917
3. Mowl, T. The Historic Gardens of England: Oxfordshire. Tempus 2007
4. Patrick, J. Walter Cave: Arts and Crafts to Edwardian Splendour. 1st ed . Phillimore and Co. Ltd; 2012
5. Sherwood, J. and Pevsner, N. The Buildings of England:
Oxfordshire. 1st ed. London: Penguin Books; 1974.View payable Stamp Duty for this property