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Trinity College, Oxford


Trinity College lies at the centre of Oxford, set within a group of city centre colleges, the closest of which are the adjacent St John's and Balliol, with Wadham to the east, and Jesus and Exeter to the south.


The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

College quadrangles and garden, largely laid out from the 16th to the 18th century.



Trinity College lies at the centre of Oxford, adjacent to the north side of Broad Street, on level ground. The 2ha college is bounded to the north by the C16 stone wall which separates Trinity from the adjacent St John's College, to the east by a continuation of this stone wall, to the south by Broad Street and the Bodleian extension, and to the west by Balliol College. The college is set within a group of city centre colleges, the closest of which are the adjacent St John's (qv) and Balliol, with Wadham (qv) to the east, and Jesus and Exeter to the south. The view north from Turl Street, south of Broad Street, focuses on Front Quad, backed by the south side of the C17 chapel.


The main college entrance, in the south-west corner of the site, approaches off Broad Street to the south, through a gateway flanked by iron gates given by Lord Guilford (later Lord North) in 1737 and hung on massive stone gate piers (1886, rebuilt 1968) copied from those on the east boundary of the garden. A broad, straight path, overlooked by Balliol College's chapel to the west, cuts through Front Quad's lawn towards the west side, arriving at the archway at the bottom of the tower on the north side of the Quad (1691-4, listed grade I). The open, rectangular lawn of Front Quad, planted with specimen trees, is surrounded by paths, and bounded to the west by the boundary wall with Balliol (C18 or earlier, listed grade II), to the north by the tower and chapel (1690s, listed grade I), and President's Lodgings (Sir Thomas Jackson 1880s, listed grade II), and to the east by the Jackson Building (Sir Thomas Jackson 1880s, listed grade II); to the south are cottages and the lodge adjacent to the main gate. A doorway in the west wall gives access to the Fellows' Garden (remodelled 1990s), leading south off the west range of Durham Quad towards Balliol chapel. Enclosed mostly by high stone walls and on the north side by the Senior Common Room, the terraced Fellows' Garden contains a raised border at the south end, and a lower terrace reached at the north end by stone steps, the whole dominated by a central pool and fountain. The remains of a summerhouse/gazebo floor (including knuckle bones) were found in the south-west corner of the Fellows' Garden during recent (mid 1990s) remodelling, consistent with a small square garden building shown in this position in Loggan's engraving for Oxonia Illustrata (1675).

The archway at the bottom of the tower on the north side of Front Quad leads through to the south-west corner of Durham Quad (C15, C17, C18, listed grade I), enclosing a central raised octagonal lawn surrounded by paving, with a further passage in the north-west corner giving access to the late C17/C18 Garden Quad (listed grade I). The open east side is bounded by a wrought-iron screen with a pair of gates and overthrow (listed grade II), erected as a memorial to those killed in the Second World War, giving access to the college garden.


A straight, gravel path runs c 120m east from the east side of Garden Quad through the centre of the college garden to the elegant wrought-iron grille and overthrow set between massive, angled stone gate piers with niches and ball finials (masonry possibly William Townesend, ironwork possibly Thomas Robinson, 1713, listed grade II*), set into the east boundary wall and stepped down slightly from the level of the adjacent Parks Road. The path, aligned at a slight angle to Garden Quad, is flanked by open lawns, the garden bounded to the north by the dividing wall with St John's (C16-C18, listed grade II), against which several mature yew trees stand within an herbaceous border running along the bottom of the wall. The southern third of the garden is more enclosed, set out with specimen trees on lawn, including several mature yew trees. The freely growing, mature yews may be remnants of early C18 topiary or part of later planting, those trees against St John's wall possibly being the remnants of yews cut into a sculpted hedge disguising the wall (Williams, 1732). A further gateway, set at the south end of the east wall (listed grade II), is flanked by ashlar gate piers with cornices and ball finials, from which hang modern wooden gates. The paved Library Quad opens off the south side of the garden, surrounded by an assortment of C19 and C20 buildings.

The President's Garden lies at the south-west corner of the college garden, bounded by stone walls on the north and east sides, by the Old Library to the west, and the President's Lodgings to the south. Its central lawn is surrounded by perimeter borders, with a yew hedge at the south end, and a stone gateway set in the east wall giving access to the college garden.

The college surroundings from the mid C16 to mid C17 consisted largely of a grove of trees on the site of the current (1997) college garden (Agas, 1578; Hollar, 1643). Later in the C17 the central east/west path from Garden Quad appeared, leading straight to a gateway in the east wall in a similar position to the current early C18 screened gateway, north-west of which was a small mound. South of this path the garden was divided by two diagonal paths, the whole area being irregularly planted with a grove of trees (Loggan, 1675). By the early C18 a complex formal garden had been laid out (Williams, 1732), the focus of which was the gate screen (1713) in the east wall. Although not all the features seem to be shown accurately by Williams, the general design was probably laid out, and included rectangular quarters flanking the main east/west axial path, ornamented with topiary pillars and pyramids and two small mounds, with a double avenue adjacent to the south and an elaborate labyrinth to the south of this. The whole was overlooked by the college buildings at the west end, and surrounded by walls on the other sides. By the end of the C18 this had been considerably simplified, the areas to north and south of the main path being laid to lawn, with the double avenue surviving, and the remains of the labyrinth to the south of this (Davis, 1797). By the mid C19 (Hoggar, 1850) only a single avenue remained, and a serpentine path had been created on the site of the labyrinth, much as survives today (1997). Front Quad was only created in its present spacious form in the later C19, during the construction of the President's Lodgings and Jackson Building, having been gradually widened over the years from a narrow passage linking Broad Street and the south front of Durham Quad (Agas, 1578; Loggan, 1675), incorporating former town house plots and a kitchen garden.


William Williams, Oxonia Depicta (1732)

Country Life, 18 (25 November 1905), pp 730-4; 67 (1 March 1930), pp 318-24; (8 March 1930), pp 352-9

Victoria History of the County of Oxfordshire 3, (1954), pp 238-48

N Pevsner and J Sherwood, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (1974), pp 203-7

T Martine Ronaldson, Drawings of Trinity College, Oxford (1904), various plates

M Maclagan, Trinity College, 1555-1955 (1955)

M Batey, Oxford Gardens (1982), p 87

Journal Garden History 8, (1988), p 263


Agas/Bereblock, Map of Oxford, engraved 1728 from 1578 original

Hollar, Map of Oxford, 1643

Loggan, Map of Oxford, 1675

R Davis, A New Map of the County of Oxford ..., 1797

Hoggar, Map of Oxford, 1850

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1876; 2nd edition published 1900; 1921 edition

OS 1:500: 1st edition published 1878

Description written: December 1997

Amended: March 1999

Edited: March 2000

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):


Trinity College was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope, a civil servant, having obtained the site and buildings of Durham College, suppressed in 1544, which he used as the basis for Trinity buildings and garden. Durham College's 15th-century main quad was reused as Trinity's initial quad, and appears to have been the only building on the site during the 16th century (Agas, 1578). The southern half of what is now St John's College garden (adjacent to the north) was also in the possession of Durham College, before Henry VIII assigned it in the 1540s to St Bernard's College which occupied the site before St John's (founded 1555); around 1558 the dividing wall was built between Trinity College and St John's. Garden Quad was built in the late 17th century, with work by Sir Christopher Wren, its open east side overlooking the garden. The garden, which became increasingly formal in its layout during the 17th and early 18th century, ran east from Garden Quad as far as Parks Road, being remodelled in very formal Dutch style in the late 17th or early 18th century (Loggan, 1675; Williams, 1732), and re-landscaped in informal style in the early 19th century. The garden and quadrangles remain (1997) part of the college.


Tudor (1485-1603)

Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD2113
  • Grade: II


  • Lawn
  • Border
  • Pond
  • Sculpture
  • Urn
  • College (featured building)
  • Description: The only surviving building from the previous foundation, Durham College, is the library which was completed in 1421. Trinity College was founded in 1555, and the other college buildings date from after this time.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Ornamental Fountain
  • Pool
  • Description: With a fountain.
Key Information





Principal Building



Tudor (1485-1603)





Open to the public