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Nine Wells House, Great Shelford


Nine Wells House used to have an extensive iris garden, planted by Sir Michael Foster. This was lost during World War II.

Nine Wells House gardens held the renowned iris collection of Sir Michael Foster.
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Christopher Saunders


Nine Wells House is a Victorian house set among trees along Granham's Road to the north of the village overlooking the Cambridge to London railway line, but gives no clues of its horticultural importance at the turn of the 19th century.

It is well known that dons and parsons were concerned with the first steps in the rise of the old simple flags to the present glories of the bearded irises. Sir Michael Foster (1836-1907) was an eminent Professor of Physiology at Cambridge University and also Secretary of the Royal Society. Foster grew over 200 irises collected from all over the world. His notebooks covering his observations from 1878 to 1902, accompanied by his lucid drawings, still exist. He was the first to publish descriptions of some of the species iris.

After collecting more eastern irises he became interested in crossing species to form hybrids. His records were made available to William Rickatson Dykes who wrote a monograph ‘The Green Iris' in 1913. Amos Perry, the north London nurseryman, marketed some of Sir Michael's iris. Foster was known for his quotation ‘Horticulture is a pious occupation' giving as his reason ‘The gods rejoice when they see a good man struggling with adversity'. He was among the first to receive the Victoria Medal of Honour from the RHS. Many good Eremurus Shelford hybrids (Foxtail Lilies) were also raised by Sir Michael Foster at Nine Wells.

Sadly the iris garden was neglected and lost during World War II and is no longer in existence.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Features & Designations


  • House (featured building)
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Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Victorian (1837-1901)



Civil Parish

Great Shelford



  • Cambridgeshire Gardens Trust