Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
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Cambridge (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TL 45296 58333


College courts and landscaped gardens, laid out C17-C19.


Walter Mildmay, Queen Elizabeth I's Chancellor of the Exchequer, founded Emmanuel College in 1584, to train ministers of the Church of England. He used the site of a half-ruined Dominican priory, rebuilding and converting it to college use. During the C16 and C17 the college was strongly Puritan. Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) built a new chapel during the 1670s, and during the C18 Front Court was reconstructed and the old college entrance, formerly to the north, moved to the west front. The site remains (1998) in college use.


LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Emmanuel College lies at the centre of Cambridge, on level ground. The c 2ha college is bounded to the north by Parker Street, to the west by Emmanuel Street and St Andrew's Street, and to the south by Park Terrace. The college is set within the commercial centre of Cambridge, close to the public open spaces of Christ's Pieces to the north and Parker's Piece to the south, with several other colleges close by, including Christ's College (qv) to the north and Downing College to the south.

ENTRANCES, APPROACHES AND COURTS The college is approached off St Andrew's Street, entered opposite the east end of Downing Street. A short, stone path approaches an archway into the west range of Front Court. The path is flanked by long narrow lawns surrounded by borders, the whole enclosed by railings set on low brick walls running the whole length of the St Andrew's Street front. The archway gives onto a cloister on the east side of this range, forming the west side of Front Court (C16-C18, listed grade I), laid largely to a rectangular panel of lawn surrounded by a paved and cobbled path. The corners of the lawn are marked by scrolled, right-angled stone corner pieces. Front Court is dominated by Wren's east range and chapel (1668-77, listed grade I), consisting of a cloister with a gallery room above it, surmounted centrally by the chapel pediment and lantern. Passages through the north range lead into New Court (C16-C20, listed grade I), crossed by several oblique stone paths surrounding triangular beds edged and divided by low, clipped box hedges and planted with herbs to form a herb garden (1960). A passage from the north corner of New Court runs under Emmanuel Street, emerging in North Court (L Stokes 1910-14, listed grade II), enclosed by accommodation ranges on three sides, with the fourth, east boundary adjacent to the Street marked by a high wall. The centre of the court contains an oval sunk lawn, reached by stone steps down at the north and south ends, planted with two specimen trees, including a mature foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa). This lawn was laid out at the same time as the surrounding buildings.

In the C16 and C17 (Loggan, 1688, 1690) the college was entered through the three-sided New Court, at that time open to the north onto Emmanuel Street. The fourth, north side was bounded by a wall with an impressive gateway, from which a straight path edged with balustrades led to the south range of New Court. Front Court was laid out in similar manner to now (1998), with the central lawn edged by a balustrade. In 1769 James Essex was employed to replace the old red-brick buildings along St Andrew's Street, producing the Essex Front on the west side of Front Court, an imposing pedimented and pillared classical composition in which was inserted the new main entrance, aligned with the chapel.

GARDENS The south end of Wren's open cloister in Front Court gives onto The Paddock, an informal garden bounded to the north by the Hostel and Emmanuel House (late C19, both listed grade II), to the east by a high wall (medieval and C18, listed grade II), to the south by the library (L Stokes 1909, listed grade II) and the Brick Building (1632-4, listed grade I), and to the west by the Master's and Fellows' Gardens. The Paddock is laid largely to informal lawn, with a central path to the Hostel running north from the south side of Wren's cloister, and a parallel one to the west giving access to the Fellows' Garden. The Paddock is dominated by an informal pond with an island at the south end, developed from the Friars' medieval monastic fishpond.

A gateway in a lowered wall along the west boundary of The Paddock gives onto the Fellows' Garden, an informal area bounded largely by brick walls (of medieval origin, rebuilt c 1800, listed grade II). This garden is laid largely to lawn, with a curved gravel perimeter path and scattered mature specimen trees. A massive Oriental plane (probably early C19) with an unusual weeping habit stands close to the north boundary. A small rectangular swimming pool lies in the north-west corner, with a thatched classical changing hut at its south-west end, originally built c 1745 and rebuilt mid C19.

A passage through the south corner of Front Court leads to Chapman's Garden, surrounded on three sides by college buildings, and on the fourth side, adjacent to St Andrew's Street, by a high wall. The garden is laid largely to lawn with specimen trees, with a perimeter path and a crescent-shaped pond along the north boundary.

In the late C17 (Loggan, 1688, 1690) the gardens bounded the college to the east, the compartments covering the same areas as now (1998). In the north corner the Fellows' Garden was mostly informally planted, divided from north to south by an arched tunnel of greens, with what was possibly a pool on the site of today's swimming pool. The Paddock contained few features, being largely meadow, with the monks' rectangular pond stretching up to the north boundary, and an open-air real tennis court on the west boundary. At this time Chapman's Garden was laid out with a grove of trees, bounded to the north by a straight-sided channel bringing water from Hobson's Conduit beneath the Brick Building. By the mid C18 (Essex survey, 1746, in Willis and Clark 1886) the Fellows' Garden contained four elaborately laid-out quarters separated by straight paths, each quarter bounded with trees, with the north quarter dominated by a rectangular 'bath' and a bath house at its south end. The Paddock contained the pond, its corners rounded, and lay within what was probably a meadow with few other features. At this time Chapman's Garden was laid out in a grid pattern of lawns or beds separated by cross paths, and the narrow channel shown on Loggan's map of 1688 had been widened and was labelled as a pond. By the late C18 (Custance, 1798) the formality of the gardens had been lessened and the pond in Chapman's Garden curved into a shape similar to now.


Loggan, Cantabrigia Illustrata (1690) Beeverell, Les Delices de la Grand Bretagne ... (1707) R Willis and J W Clark, The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge 4, (1886) Country Life, 74 (28 October 1933), pp 444-9; (4 November 1933), pp 470-5 Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire III, (1959), pp 474-9 N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire (1970), pp 69-75 L P Wilkinson, Le Keux's Engravings of Victorian Cambridge (1981) R Gray, Cambridge Colleges (1984), pp 22-4 M Batey, The Historic Gardens of Oxford and Cambridge (1989), pp 51-2, 75, 100, 176 The Magazine of the Cambridge Society, no 35 (Winter 1994-5), pp 103-8

Maps Lyne, Map of Cambridge, 1574 Hamond, Map of Cambridge, 1592 Loggan, Map of Cambridge, 1688 (from Cantabrigia Illustrata 1690) Custance, Map of Cambridge, 1798 Baker, Map of Cambridge, 1830 Copy of an old plan in Clare College Treasury showing layout of Fellows' and Master's gardens before C17 rebuilding (in Willis and Clark 1886)

OS 25" to 1 mile: 3rd edition published 1925 OS 1:500: 1st edition published 1888

Description written: February 1998 Register Inspector: SR Edited: January 2001


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
Parks and Gardens


This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

End of official listing

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