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Newnham College


Features of Newnham College include a mound, a sundial, yew hedges and herbaceous borders.

In 1880, two more acres (nearly one hectare) were bought for North Hall, also by Champneys, to the north of Newnham Walk where a tennis court and fives court were provided. Other college buildings followed and the Sidgwicks engaged the city fathers for three years to have the public footpath, which originally divided the college's accommodation, relocated as a road to the north (now Sigwick Avenue lined with plane trees). This was accomplished at their financial expense in 1893.

Thus the garden was now overlooked by College accommodation with their backs to the new road. This stroke of genius allowed the garden to develop within its own framework. Fellows of the College had placed great emphasis on the need for women to have fresh air and exercise, coupled with the interest in gardening. This meant that no garden designer was given a free hand. The College's Garden Committee to this day exercises a firm control over garden matters.

James Blackhouse & Sons of York proposed curved walks and the mound for the telescope was provided in 1891 by Mary Boreham. Alfred Hoare Powell designed the sunken parterre in front of Kennedy and the semi-circular yew hedge at the end of the path from Clough.

Gertrude Jekyll submitted plans in 1911, which included two hexagonal pavilions designed by Edward Lutyens. He knew Mrs. Sidgwick well as he was related to her by marriage. The college hesitated, and by 1912 Mr. Watson of Edinburgh had provided plans which were accepted.

The mound was to be enclosed by a seven-sided wall, and accessible from four paths. The west garden was to be an orchard and along the southern boundary a nut walk was proposed. The latter was actually proposed by Miss Jekyll. What exists today is partly a combination of ideas. The mound now supports a sundial, which is a memorial to Mrs. Sidgwick and a stone plaque with lettering carved by Eric Gill.

The planting of the garden is adventurous, tender plants clothe the walls and superb herbaceous borders flank the paths. But at the same time there is respect for the stages of this garden's history and its staff. This philosophy of continuity established during the Arts and Crafts movement marks Newnham's garden as separate from other colleges.

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Lectures for women started at Cambridge in 1870, thanks to the efforts of Henry Sidgwick and his wife Eleanor. With funds raised from friends they built a Hall of residence, Old Hall, which was opened in 1875, under the care of Blanche Athena Clough who became the College's third principal. The Hall was sited on land to the south to Newnham Walk and designed by Basil Champneys using crisp red bricks for the elevations.

Features & Designations


  • Hedge
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  • Herbaceous Border
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  • Sundial
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  • Artificial Mound
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Key Information





Principal Building






  • Cambridgeshire Gardens Trust