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The Old Vicarage, Grantchester


A garden associated with the vicarage which has stood on the site in various forms since 1380. The current house was built in the 18th century and is no longer used as a vicarage. The unusual gardens date from the mid-19th century and have been carefully maintained by a succession of owners.

In 1979 the house was bought by Lord and Lady Archer who have carefully maintained the garden with advice from Professor Willmer. Weeping willows have been planted near the Ruin and a small pond with an island has been created to the north of the lawn. A Swiss cottage, a bathing house and a conservatory have disappeared; a pigeon-cote still stood in Brooke's time, while the fountain lost its ornamentation in the 1920s.
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Lord and Lady Archer


There has been a Vicarage on this site since 1380, although the present building was constructed 300 years ago and incorporated parts of an earlier house. Since 1780 the house has no longer been used as a Vicarage.

In 1850 Samuel Page Widnall, the son of a successful Grantchester nurseryman and florist, acquired the property and ornamented his garden in the Gothic manner. His sundial in the shape of an open book, and the island he created in the River Cam at the end of the garden still remain. His most striking creation was a 'sham ruin' which was built of clunch in the style of a medieval oratory.

Rupert Brooke rented three rooms of the house in 1910 and wrote to his friends that 'the garden is the great glory, there is a soft lawn with a sun dial and tangled antique flowers abundantly: and a sham ruin ... and no drains'.

After Brooke's death his mother bought the house in 1916 and as a memorial to her son, gave it to Dudley Ward his great friend and grandfather of the present owner. Her wish was that the garden be kept much as it was in her son's time. During the 1920s and 1930s, Ward entertained Maynard Keynes, the Strachey family, the Oliviers and the Cornfords in the garden.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Associated People
Features & Designations




  • Ruin
  • Lawn
  • Fountain
  • Sundial
  • Island
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Victorian (1837-1901)