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Magdalene College, Cambridge


A college garden contemporary with the second foundation of the college in 1542 with subsequent alterations predominantly in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The garden is made up of the Master's Garden, The Fellows' Garden, First and Second Court, Benson's Court and Tennis Court. The garden benefits from a river frontage.

Today there is an exotic display of annual bedding plants along the river frontage of First Court. In Second Court the walls support climbing plants with herbaceous plants beneath.

The Fellows' Garden has a fine view through mature trees, which include the oak that was planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's 1887 Jubilee, to the river and beyond. In the north-west corner is a Victorian pet cemetery. Flower beds filled with herbaceous plants and heathers slope towards the lawn.

The spaces between the medieval buildings in Benson's Court are sympathetically planted with wall shrubs and are connected by raised paths and lawns. The view to the river is dominated by a large weeping willow.

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Magdalene College was founded in 1482 and again in 1542. The first foundation was as a Cambridge hostel for Benedictine monks from Crowland Abbey, to the north of the river, under the shadow of Castle Hill. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, Lord Audley of Audley End founded the present college.

Loggan's map of 1688 shows First Court completed and the lawn divided by a central path. To the north of First Court are three rectangular plots with trees and a Bowling Green, and to the east of the court a small garden with trees. A path in this garden leads to a building standing where Pepys Building is today. This building is in the south-west corner of a large field called Magdalene Close which overlooks the river. It was enclosed by trees along the perimeter, with an avenue on higher ground along the track to the north (now Chesterton Lane).

Custance's map of 1798 shows the Pepys Building on the site of the earlier building, the plots with trees have been replaced by grass and the Bowling Green has been planted over. Adjacent to the Pepys Building is the brewhouse along the river frontage, which dates from 1629. Magdalene Close now becomes the Fellows' Garden with a wide path around a central lawn, but the trees remain.

In 1835 the Master's Lodge was built to the north of First Court laid out over the bowling green. By 1888 his garden led directly into the Fellows' Garden, where the perimeter walk had been changed at the north-west corner to allow views through the trees which had been planted at random in Magdalene Close. Here there were narrow beds for flowers and a summerhouse below the earthwork's terrace. Second Court has trees planted against the walls parallel to the central path. Along the river frontage between Magdalene Street and the brewhouse is a garden and Tennis Court.

After 1925 the college expanded by acquiring existing medieval cottages to the west of Magdalene Street, and in 1931 Edwin Lutyens designed Benson's Court with its back to St. John's College.


Tudor (1485-1603)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Lawn
  • Path
Key Information



Principal Building



Tudor (1485-1603)



Open to the public