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Emmanuel College, Cambridge


This site comprises the landscaped pleasure grounds and gardens associated with the foundation of Emmanuel College in 1584. The gardens feature on Hammond's illustrated map of 1592. The gardens are of 3.7 hectares in size and are divided into several separate areas: North Court, Fellow's Garden, New Court and Herb Garden, The Paddock and Chapman's Garden, each with its own history, development, and features.



The College entrance was originally from Emmanuel Street to the north. This is illustrated on Hammond's map of 1592. The Loggan view of 1690 shows this entrance with a path bordered by low fencing between two lawns. There is a bathing pool in the Fellows' Garden, surrounded by trees and to the south in The Paddock, enclosed by walls and backed by trees, is a larger pool.

To the south of Front Court is Chapman's Garden, thickly planted with trees with an open culvert along one side, bringing water from Hobson's Conduit to the pond in the Paddock, and then on to Christ's College.

James Essex's plan of 1746 shows the Fellows' Garden pool to be formalised and brick lined with moulded stone edges, in a slightly different position, and to the west is a small Bath House. Chapman's Garden has been laid out with a series of walks between parallel beds and the open conduit now has curved ends.

Today the entrance to the College is along St. Andrew's Street passing through the narrow frontal strip of lawn with flowering cherry trees and shrubs against the College walls, sometimes planted out with dahlias. There is no planting in Front Court, which gives easy access to other courts and gardens.

New Court, formerly the entrance court, was enclosed in 1824 and now has a perennial herb garden designed by John Codrington in 1960, consisting of low raised brick beds set in the brick and cobble pattern of the court. The beds are edged with box and the soil is covered by coloured stones, including coal. The beds are triangular and intersected by paths diagonally crossing the court. The Paddock to the east of the Chapel was also designed by Codrington in the 1960s with the first view from Front Court deliberately confined by shrub planting. The long pool now has serpentine edges and an island dominated by a Swamp Cypress. Around the pool are bamboos, and other moisture loving plants. A winter garden was planted at the east end of the pool in 1985 with several conifers.

The Fellows' Garden seen over a low wall, is dominated by a mature Oriental Plane with branches sweeping the lawns, thought to have been planted around 1835, and a fine Purple Beech. In the corner is the pool used for swimming since 1690, the present thatched hut dates from the mid-19th century. There are outstanding 20th-century herbaceous borders along the north-west boundary.

Chapman's Garden is named after the Reverend Arthur Chapman, a Hebrew scholar who until 1913 had the whole garden to himself. To one side of the pool is an extensive collection of trees. Along a path is a white and red flower garden. The tree planting in this garden gives some indication of the 120 tree species, some rare, planted in the College garden.

Access to the North Court is by a tunnel from New Court. Here in a sunken oval lawn are three magnificent trees; Paulownia tomentosa, Fraxinus ornus and Cedrus libani, proving the perfect foil to the Baroque pediments of the dormer windows.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

College courts and landscaped gardens, laid out from the 17th to the 19th century.



Emmanuel College lies at the centre of Cambridge, on level ground. The c 2ha college is bounded to the north by Parker Street, to the west by Emmanuel Street and St Andrew's Street, and to the south by Park Terrace. The college is set within the commercial centre of Cambridge, close to the public open spaces of Christ's Pieces to the north and Parker's Piece to the south, with several other colleges close by, including Christ's College (qv) to the north and Downing College to the south.


The college is approached off St Andrew's Street, entered opposite the east end of Downing Street. A short, stone path approaches an archway into the west range of Front Court. The path is flanked by long narrow lawns surrounded by borders, the whole enclosed by railings set on low brick walls running the whole length of the St Andrew's Street front. The archway gives onto a cloister on the east side of this range, forming the west side of Front Court (C16-C18, listed grade I), laid largely to a rectangular panel of lawn surrounded by a paved and cobbled path. The corners of the lawn are marked by scrolled, right-angled stone corner pieces. Front Court is dominated by Wren's east range and chapel (1668-77, listed grade I), consisting of a cloister with a gallery room above it, surmounted centrally by the chapel pediment and lantern. Passages through the north range lead into New Court (C16-C20, listed grade I), crossed by several oblique stone paths surrounding triangular beds edged and divided by low, clipped box hedges and planted with herbs to form a herb garden (1960). A passage from the north corner of New Court runs under Emmanuel Street, emerging in North Court (L Stokes 1910-14, listed grade II), enclosed by accommodation ranges on three sides, with the fourth, east boundary adjacent to the Street marked by a high wall. The centre of the court contains an oval sunk lawn, reached by stone steps down at the north and south ends, planted with two specimen trees, including a mature foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa). This lawn was laid out at the same time as the surrounding buildings.

In the C16 and C17 (Loggan, 1688, 1690) the college was entered through the three-sided New Court, at that time open to the north onto Emmanuel Street. The fourth, north side was bounded by a wall with an impressive gateway, from which a straight path edged with balustrades led to the south range of New Court. Front Court was laid out in similar manner to now (1998), with the central lawn edged by a balustrade. In 1769 James Essex was employed to replace the old red-brick buildings along St Andrew's Street, producing the Essex Front on the west side of Front Court, an imposing pedimented and pillared classical composition in which was inserted the new main entrance, aligned with the chapel.


The south end of Wren's open cloister in Front Court gives onto The Paddock, an informal garden bounded to the north by the Hostel and Emmanuel House (late C19, both listed grade II), to the east by a high wall (medieval and C18, listed grade II), to the south by the library (L Stokes 1909, listed grade II) and the Brick Building (1632-4, listed grade I), and to the west by the Master's and Fellows' Gardens. The Paddock is laid largely to informal lawn, with a central path to the Hostel running north from the south side of Wren's cloister, and a parallel one to the west giving access to the Fellows' Garden. The Paddock is dominated by an informal pond with an island at the south end, developed from the Friars' medieval monastic fishpond.

A gateway in a lowered wall along the west boundary of The Paddock gives onto the Fellows' Garden, an informal area bounded largely by brick walls (of medieval origin, rebuilt c 1800, listed grade II). This garden is laid largely to lawn, with a curved gravel perimeter path and scattered mature specimen trees. A massive Oriental plane (probably early C19) with an unusual weeping habit stands close to the north boundary. A small rectangular swimming pool lies in the north-west corner, with a thatched classical changing hut at its south-west end, originally built c 1745 and rebuilt mid C19.

A passage through the south corner of Front Court leads to Chapman's Garden, surrounded on three sides by college buildings, and on the fourth side, adjacent to St Andrew's Street, by a high wall. The garden is laid largely to lawn with specimen trees, with a perimeter path and a crescent-shaped pond along the north boundary.

In the late C17 (Loggan, 1688, 1690) the gardens bounded the college to the east, the compartments covering the same areas as now (1998). In the north corner the Fellows' Garden was mostly informally planted, divided from north to south by an arched tunnel of greens, with what was possibly a pool on the site of today's swimming pool. The Paddock contained few features, being largely meadow, with the monks' rectangular pond stretching up to the north boundary, and an open-air real tennis court on the west boundary. At this time Chapman's Garden was laid out with a grove of trees, bounded to the north by a straight-sided channel bringing water from Hobson's Conduit beneath the Brick Building. By the mid C18 (Essex survey, 1746, in Willis and Clark 1886) the Fellows' Garden contained four elaborately laid-out quarters separated by straight paths, each quarter bounded with trees, with the north quarter dominated by a rectangular 'bath' and a bath house at its south end. The Paddock contained the pond, its corners rounded, and lay within what was probably a meadow with few other features. At this time Chapman's Garden was laid out in a grid pattern of lawns or beds separated by cross paths, and the narrow channel shown on Loggan's map of 1688 had been widened and was labelled as a pond. By the late C18 (Custance, 1798) the formality of the gardens had been lessened and the pond in Chapman's Garden curved into a shape similar to now.


Loggan, Cantabrigia Illustrata (1690)

Beeverell, Les Delices de la Grand Bretagne ... (1707)

R Willis and J W Clark, The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge 4, (1886)

Country Life, 74 (28 October 1933), pp 444-9; (4 November 1933), pp 470-5

Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire III, (1959), pp 474-9

N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire (1970), pp 69-75

L P Wilkinson, Le Keux's Engravings of Victorian Cambridge (1981)

R Gray, Cambridge Colleges (1984), pp 22-4

M Batey, The Historic Gardens of Oxford and Cambridge (1989), pp 51-2, 75, 100, 176

The Magazine of the Cambridge Society, no 35 (Winter 1994-5), pp 103-8


Lyne, Map of Cambridge, 1574

Hamond, Map of Cambridge, 1592

Loggan, Map of Cambridge, 1688 (from Cantabrigia Illustrata 1690)

Custance, Map of Cambridge, 1798

Baker, Map of Cambridge, 1830

Copy of an old plan in Clare College Treasury showing layout of Fellows' and Master's gardens before C17 rebuilding (in Willis and Clark 1886)

OS 25" to 1 mile: 3rd edition published 1925

OS 1:500: 1st edition published 1888

Description written: February 1998

Register Inspector: SR

Edited: January 2001

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Emmanuel College was founded in 1584 by Sir Walter Mildmay, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):


Walter Mildmay, Queen Elizabeth I's Chancellor of the Exchequer, founded Emmanuel College in 1584, to train ministers of the Church of England. He used the site of a half-ruined Dominican priory, rebuilding and converting it to college use. During the C16 and C17 the college was strongly Puritan. Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) built a new chapel during the 1670s, and during the C18 Front Court was reconstructed and the old college entrance, formerly to the north, moved to the west front. The site remains (1998) in college use.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD1610
  • Grade: II*


  • College (featured building)
  • Description: In 1584, a half-ruined Dominican priory on the site was rebuilt and converted to college use.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building






Open to the public





  • Cambridgeshire Gardens Trust