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Danby Gate

This detail from a painting by A. Pugin shows the Botanic Garden’s Danby Gate in 1816. It is a Grade I listed structure (ref. 1485/423).

The Oxford Physic Garden, renamed the Oxford Botanic Garden in 1840, was founded in 1621 by Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby, on the present five-acre site. Being outside the city walls, the land was formerly used as a Jewish cemetery. Four thousand loads of “mucke and dunge” were needed to raise the land above the Cherwell flood-plain. The walls were to be as “well fair and sufficient as All Soules College walls, Magdalen Colledge Tower, or any of the fairest buildings in Oxford both for truth and beauty”, and the gateways were built in 1632 by Inigo Jones’s master-mason.

The Universal British Directory of 1791 has this to say about the Botanic Garden:

The Physic Garden is situated to the south of Magdalen College. We pass through a small court to the grand entrance, designed by Inigo Jones, and executed by Nicholas Stone. It is of the Doric order, and ornamented with rustic work. It is moreover adorned with a bust of the founder Lord Danby, a statue of Charles I, and another of Charles II. These statues were purchased for 34l. being the fine imposed on the university by Anthony Wood. On the face of the corona and the frieze is the following inscription: “Gloriae Dei optimi maximi Honori Caroli I. Regis in Usum Academiae et Reipublicae Henricus Comes Danby, Anno 1632”.* The same inscription is on the garden front. – The Garden, which is five acres in circumference, is surrounded by a noble wall, with other portals in the rustic style at proper distances. The ground is divided into four quarters. On the right and left, at the entrance, are two neat and convenient green-houses, stocked with a valuable collection of exotics. The quarters are filled with a complete series of such plants as grow naturally, disposed in their respective classes. Without the walls, on the east, is an admirable hot-house, where various plants, brought from the warmer climates, are raised.-This Garden was instituted by the Earl of Danby above-mentioned, A.D. 1632; who having replenished it with plants for the use of students in botany, settled an annual revenue for its support. It has been since much improved by Dr. Sherrard, who assigned 3000l. for the maintenance of a professor of botany.

* “To the glory of God and the greatest honour of King Charles I Henry Earl of Danby [gave this garden] for the use of both the University and the state in the year 1632.”


Official website of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 25 September, 2012

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