Botanic Gardens

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1939.

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'Botanic Gardens', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford, (London, 1939) pp. 14-15. British History Online [accessed 22 April 2024]

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens, Plan of Main Gateway

(5) The Botanic Garden occupies a site on the S. side of High Street opposite Magdalen College. The Garden was founded by Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby, in 1621. The gateway and enclosing wall were not finished until 1632–3; the gateways were designed by Nicholas Stone.

The garden forms a rectangular enclosure of about 340 ft. by 380 ft. with an ashlar-faced wall finished with a moulded coping. The Main Gateway (Plate 62) is on the N. side and is a stone structure of three bays finished with a pediment. On the N. face the middle bay has a round-headed rusticated arch, with the arms of Danvers quartering Neville on the keystone; the side bays are flanked by rusticated Doric columns standing on a high plinth and supporting a continuous entablature with small pediments over the side bays enclosed in the main pediment; in the tympana are shields-of-arms of the University and St. George. The side-bays have each a round-headed niche containing later statues of Charles I and Charles II. The main pediment has a central round-headed niche containing a bust of Lord Danby and flanked by cartouches of the Royal Stuart arms and swags. On the cornice is the inscription "Gloriae Dei opt. max. Honori Caroli Regis. In usum Acad. et Reipub." and on the frieze is the inscription "Henricus Comes Danby D.D. 1632." The S. face has a round-headed arch in the middle bay but the head only is rusticated. The side-bays have each two tiers of two round-headed niches with imposts and the lower niches with key-blocks. The front is finished with a continuous cornice and there is a central panel, inscribed "Gloriae Dei Opt. Max.," with a segmental pediment under the main pediment; restored panels on the side bays bear the first inscription cited above and in the spandrels between the heads of the lower niches are incised sun-dials. At the ends the N. halves have a repeat of the side bays of the N. front; the S. halves repeat half of the side bays of the S. front. The gateway has a semi-circular barrel-vault of stone springing from plain bands over the side-bays; the side-bays have each four round-headed niches and a round-headed recess in the middle of the end-walls. Flanking this gateway are later 17th-century doorways in the enclosure-wall; they are rusticated and have moulded architraves and entablatures. The outer arch is fitted with iron gates, of late mediæval type and presumably brought from elsewhere.

The E. Gateway is also a stone structure of three bays finished with a pediment. The middle bay on both faces has a segmental-headed and rusticated arch carried above the main cornice and finished with a segmental pediment forming the middle part of the main pediment. The side bays have each a large round-headed niche with imposts. On the cornice of the middle bay on the W. is the second inscription cited above. On the main pediment to the W. is a carved cartouche with a coronet and putti. The W. Gateway is similar to that just described but has no cartouche. It is fitted with panelled doors in two leaves; each leaf has two circular pierced panels. In the S. wall is a central opening flanked by tall panelled piers surmounted by carved vases, all of c. 1700.