• Magdalen College Oxford
Reference number
  • FA19
Alternative reference number(s)
  • MC:FA19
  • c. 1800-200
Level of description
  • Collection
Scope and content
  • The site of the Botanic Gardens was originally leased by the College to the University in 1628, and it has functioned as a garden ever since. The archives at Magdalen have next to no papers about the Botanic Gardens, and the buildings erected within. However, the strip running between the Gardens and High Street has remained part of the site of the College. Most of the buildings on this site, which stretch to either side of the central gateway to the Gardens, were built in c.1835 by Henry Jones Underwood. The western part of these buildings was built in 1848 as a lecture room and laboratory for the use of Charles Daubeny. Further building took place in 1853 and 1902 (see R.T. Gunther, "A History of the Daubeny Laboratory" (Oxford 1904), pp.9-11). In 1946, Oliver Hill designed a building to replace all the existing College buildings in this area but the plan was never effected (see MC:FA19/3). Legend has it that the scheme was abandoned because one of the plans (MC:FA19/3/1AD/3) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1947 without the College’s permission, although according to Alan Powers’ catalogue of the 1989 RIBA exhibition, Hill lost the commission ‘reputedly though his over-frank criticism of a colour scheme proposed by the President’s wife’. According, however, to the recollections of the late Colin Cooke, Bursar 1944–70, Hill's involvement at Magdalen was initiated by himself at a time when he was short of work. His preparation of the Botanic Garden scheme seems to have been informally encouraged by the then President, Sir Henry Tizard, rather then being submitted to the Fellows, and he thereby incurred strong opposition from a number of them, particularly once the designs were publicised in "Country Life" and exhibited (in 1947) at the Royal Academy. With pTizard's retirement in late 1946, even those (including the incoming President, Thomas Boase) who thought well of the scheme felt unable to champion it strongly in what was then a particularly divided and fractious Governing Body. See further Robin Darwall-Smith, ‘Another Magdalen Might-have-been’, MCR 2001, 124–7. In 1973, the Daubeny Building was converted into 10 flats and 9 bedsitters for graduate use (Magdalen College Summary of Events (1973/4), p.11). The eastern building functioned as the offices for the Senior Bursar, the Estates Office, and the Accounts department, until 2002, when it was converted into student accommodation. Other Material: MC:FA1/7/1P/2 is a copy of the Almanack of 1766, which depicts Magdalen Tower as seen from the Botanical Gardens. MC:FA1/9/4P/2 fol. 6 is an engraving of a design by Henry Jones Underwood from c.1835 for the construction of the existing buildings on the Botanical Gardens site (another copy is at MC:FA1/9/4P/3 fol. 93). See too MC:FA1/9/4P/3 fol. 87 no. 3 for an 18th century engraving of the layout of the gardens, and MC:FA1/9/4P/1 fol. 43 no. 2 and MC:FA1/9/4P/3 fol. 95 for two copies of a 19th century one. See MC:FA1/11/9P/1-6 for photographs of the Botanic Garden buildings. CP/9/71 (a) is a memorandum on the conversion of the Daubeny lecture room into a research laboratory.
Archivist's note
  • Catalogued according to ISAD(G)