From John Moore, Head of Grounds & Gardens
Churchill College’s grounds and gardens are one of Cambridge’s best-kept secrets. Covering a 42-acre site, the original design was drawn up in the early 1960s by the landscape architect Sheila Haywood, who used planting for foliage and form—creating landscapes with borders surrounding buildings rather than traditional gardens. The grounds and gardens have evolved over the years but they still retain the integrity of the original planting.
The first trees on site, a Quercus robur (oak) and a Morus nigra (black mulberry), were planted by the College’s Founder, Sir Winston Churchill, on 17 October 1959. The Morus nigra was devastated in 1994 when heavy foliage and inclement weather caused it to fall to the ground. But it has since re-grown and like the oak, it is a magnificent specimen. These trees were joined in 2009 by a Morus alba ‘Pendula’ (white mulberry) which was planted by Sir Winston’s daughter, Mary Soames, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the trees that were planted by her father. These three trees are all thriving.
There are now some 800 trees across the site. The College is very proud of its tree collection, which includes both British natives along its boundary line and exotic and unusual trees elsewhere. Of particular interest are the majestic Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood), Paulownia tomentosa (Foxglove tree), Davidia involucrata (Handkerchief tree), Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip tree) and the Catalpa bignonioides (Indian bean tree).
Since 1996 the College has been carrying out extensive redevelopment work as many of the original plants had become overgrown. However, it continues to work within the spirit of the original design as set out by Sheila Haywood in the early 1960s although it has also taken the opportunity to develop new areas. Of particular note is the new Winston Churchill Border, the summer herbaceous borders, and in spring, the stunning display of some 20,000 daffodils near the Chapel at Churchill College.
The College has been grateful for the donations it has received over the years, from individual trees and plants through to the establishment of an orchid collection in a new glasshouse, and the creation of a mini-arboretum. The Xiaotian Fu garden will honour a series of generous gifts pledged to the College by Ms Xiaotian Fu (G06) and will provide an environment for peaceful academic work and tutorial meetings in the summer months.
Today the grounds also provide a perfect setting for the impressive modern sculpture around the site.
Paula Laycock (former Registrar) and John Moore (Head of Grounds & Gardens) have written a Garden Guide which includes a potted history, a garden map and a guided tour of the grounds and gardens. In A5 format with 35 pages, it is on sale for £3.
For those who would like to know more about the grounds and gardens, Portrait of a Landscape is a 200 page fully illustrated book with 205 photos which chronicles the development of the grounds and gardens since 1959 to the present day. In landscape format, it is on sale for £20.
Grounds & Gardens News
Visitors to the College’s grounds and gardens are welcome throughout the year.
The College also opens its gardens under the National Gardens Scheme each year.
Our next Open Garden Day is on Sunday 24 April 2022 from 2 – 5 p.m.