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28 September 2021

When the first Newnham buildings were built (Old Hall was completed in 1875) the gardens were not part of the plan. But 'in 1892, the Chair of the Garden Committee, Blanche Athena Clough, decided to start planning the College gardens. The College engaged James Backhouse & Son of York to draw up a plan for the gardens (Plan 1 here). The gardens did not follow the Backhouse plan exactly, or any of other plans that were commissioned subsequently; like the buildings, they just grew. The Founders were too busy with the welfare of their clients, women wanting accommodation and education, to worry particularly about the gardens. Although from the beginning the gardens were a core feature of Newnham life – there was to be no theory of quadrangles or grandeur for Newnham. Strict practicality was the watchword. The first Principal, Miss Anne Jemima Clough, declared that ‘students must have fresh air, exercise, and wholesome food’ but the garden could take care of itself. An orchard was planted, pigs, and chickens were kept, and tennis courts proliferated round the steadily increasing number of buildings.'

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