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Archives of the Botanic Garden, 1856 - 2002

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/BG

Scope and Contents

The archives comprise a wide range of operational records, covering the management and development of premises and grounds, garden planting, gardening advice within and without the University, visitors and Friends, accounts, bequests (including that by Reginald Cory) and staff, as well as papers concerning interaction with the Botany School and botanical research in general.


  • Creation: 1856 - 2002


Conditions Governing Access

Among the archives of the Botanic Garden, personal records are closed to scholars for 80 years from the date of creation under data protection legislation. Restrictions are clearly indicated in catalogue entries.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests to publish text should be addressed to the Keeper of University Archives, photographs to the Head of Digital Content Unit. Both at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR.

Biographical / Historical

A formal physic garden was first established on a five acre plot of ground, purchased by Dr Richard Walker, Vice-Master of Trinity College, and given to the University in 1762 in trust 'for the purpose of a public Botanic Garden'. The site, east of Free School Lane, was then on the outskirts of Cambridge. Lecture rooms for the Professors of Botany (chair established in 1724) and Experimental Philosophy (established in 1783) were erected in the garden in subsequent decades, but with the expansion of the town it was felt increasingly cramped for plant growing of all kinds, including an arboretum, for experimentation and buildings. In 1831, largely at the encouragement of the then Professor of Botany, John Stevens Henslow, 38 acres off Trumpington Road were acquired as a larger, more open site for a Botanic Garden; its location to the present day. The first permanent Botanic Garden Syndicate was appointed in 1855. The bequest of Reginald Cory in 1934 massively aided garden development after World War II and the expansion of buildings. Further science lecture rooms and laboratories were built on the old Botanic Garden site throughout the nineteenth century, as science was brought more formally into the undergraduate curriculum, on what became known as the New Museums Site. Botany, previously only officially on the syllabus of medical students, assumed a more independent place in the undergraduate studies of the University on the inauguration of the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1861. For further background information, see S.M. Walters The Shaping of Cambridge Botany (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1981).


18 linear metre(s) : paper

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

The hard copy catalogue was completed in 1978. It was expanded by hand to incorporate many but not all later additions up to 1995. The catalogue was converted into digital form, expanded to incorporate additions, restructured to bring record series together and altered to take account of the Data Protection Act, 1998 in 2001. A hard copy catalogue is available for consultation in Reading Room of Deparment of Manuscripts and University Archives (In.21).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the archive was transferred by S.M. Walters, Curator of the Botanic Garden, in Apr. and Aug. 1978. Further transfers were made from the Garden as follows: BG 8/2 on 21/2/79; BG 11/27-39 and 23/3-11 on 26 Jan. 1980; BG 4/8, 8/3, 21/1 (addnl.), 22/8, 14/19-22, 29/8-15. 30/1-3, 26-31, 38/4 (addnl.), 39/7-9, 40/7-16, 44-45/9, 46-63 in April 1995. BG 45/10 was given by Prof. R.G. West on 31 Mar. 1999. BG 43/2 was given by the Master and Fellows of Christ's College on 31 July 2000. BG 23/12 was given by E. Leedham-Green on 23 Jan and 3 May 2002. BG29/1A was given by Dr O. Rackham on 9 June 2009. The records are a permanent transfer to the University Archives.

Related Materials

See also among the University Archives: CUR 25 especially for records relating to the Botanic Garden, 1717-1925; also Char.II.13; Min.VI.1-1*, 6, 54; Misc.Collect.21, 23; P.VIII.3, P.XVIII.4-6, P.XXXVIII; Prem.I; R 0103; Reports (passim); T.XI.9; VC Corr.I.5.

Related Materials

The following are among the records of the Botanic Garden retained at the site: Annual Reports; Address books; correspondence, 1879-1918, 1924- ; Executive Committee minutes; maps; Syndicate correspondence, 1901-27; Syndicate minutes, 1908-62; Visitors' book, 1919-51.


The online catalogue was completed in 2002 and emended in December 2004, December 2005, January 2006 and August 2009.

Date information

DateText: bulk twentieth century.


Botanic Garden

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom