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Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge


The college gardens consist of four courts: Gonville Court, Caius Court, Tree Court, and St. Michael's Court. The college was first founded in 1348 by Dr. Caius and, unusually, again in 1557 by John Caius.

Today, the main change to the garden is the re-planning of Tree Court. This is now treated as one court, with a fine avenue of whitebeams within a strip of cobbles either side of the path leading from the Porter's Lodge to the Gate of Virtue. The lawn to the north is dominated by a cedar. Caius Court has a low raised bed planted with various conifers along the wall either side of the Gate of Honour. Gonville Court no longer has a tree at each corner of the lawn, but in summer the window boxes and annual bedding plants produce a colourful display.

To the east of Trinity Street is the college's St. Michael's Court extending round the north, east and south side of St. Michael's Church. The garden here has been planted with shrubs chosen for their dark foliage.

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Gonville and Caius College was founded twice, once by a country clergyman, Edmund Gonville, in 1348, and again by the celebrated Dr. Caius in 1557. Loggan's map of 1688 and his etching of 1690 clearly show the gardens of the college.

The Gate of Honour, designed by Dr. Caius but built after his death in 1575, reflects his interest in Italian architecture. He had studied medicine in Padua and visited Rome, Florence and Bologna prior to his return to England in 1544. His design uses motifs from Alberti and Serlio's Fourth Book of Architecture of 1537.

The gate leads to Caius Court crossed by paths with simple lawns; the etching shows a stone column mounted on a series of circular stone steps. To the north is Gonville Court with a central lawn with a tree in each corner. To the west is the Master's Garden enclosed on three sides by a high brick wall.

The garden was laid out with six small rectangular plots, two for vegetables and two were planted with different trees. Each plot was enclosed by low hedges. Tree Court consisted of an avenue of trees between parallel walls leading to Trinity Street, a tree walk within a rectangular enclosure and a partially walled lawn.

Custance's map of 1798 showed that the gardens had been simplified but the avenue of trees to Trinity Street remained. The first Ordnance Survey map of 1888 shows further changes as the College had built more accommodation on their compact site. The Master's Garden has been reduced in area by new buildings, and has been simplified to a central lawn with shrubberies to the east and west.

Tree Court still has three compartments: One to the east of the Chapel has a lawn surrounded by trees and shrubs; a smaller enclosure with a rectangular lawn and path is entered from the Porter's Lodge nearby; and the avenue of trees has been reduced by the new building incorporating the Gate of Humility.

Features & Designations


  • Gate
  • Description: The Gate of Honour, designed by Dr. Caius but built after his death in 1575, reflects his interest in Italian architecture.
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  • Hedge
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  • Tree Avenue
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  • College (featured building)
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Key Information



Principal Building




Open to the public