The John Ray Garden

The John Ray Trust established a garden within the Braintree and Bocking Public Gardens in 1986 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of John Ray’s ground-breaking botanical publication ‘History of Plants’. The garden features plants that would have been familiar to John Ray in the 1600s. Contemporary botanist and environmental campaigner Dr. David Bellamy opened the garden.

Visiting the Garden

Please follow all current government and local Covid-19 guidelines when visiting the garden. 

The garden is situated within the Braintree and Bocking Public Gardens and is maintained by the Trust.

Many of the plants are multi-sensory, and there are signboards within the garden to help visitors of all ages explore the historic herbs, shrubs and flowers.

43 Bocking End, Braintree CM7 9AE

Opening Hours: Approximately 08:30 – Dusk

Accessibility Access to the garden is via tarmac paths through the Public Gardens. The John Ray garden has level shingle paths that provide access to all the borders. There is seating within the garden.

For more information on the Public Gardens please visit

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John Ray and Plants

John Ray founded the scientific study of plants in Britain in the 1600s. He worked out the first scientific definition of a species and established the importance of studying plants in real life, not just through books. His most famous botanical work is Ray’s ‘History of plants’ published in 1686, Containing over 16,000 plant species across its three volumes, this work is a vital record of international plants at the turn of the 1700s.  This book was based on specimens Ray himself had collected in Britain and Europe, as well as specimens from around the world sent to him by a number of notable correspondents. Neither the British Museum nor the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew existed at this time, a role that in a way Ray was fulfilling in his humble house in Black Notley.

Ray also made many other contributions to our knowledge of plants, from coining terms such as pollen to discovering that trees could be dated by counting their rings.

Ray also believed we all have a duty to conserve the environment. He wrote, ‘The earth belongs to God. He has entrusted it to us … He will hold us responsible for our discharge of this trust.’

Garden Refurbishment

The Trust refurbished the garden in 2009, assisted by a bequest from the Late Sir John Ruggles-Brise, a Patron of the Trust and a grant from Trinity College Cambridge. The refurbishment was undertaken by Cameron Landscapes.

Paul King of King and Co, The Tree Nursery generously donated the tree in the middle of the square. Langthorns Plantery supplied the plants in the four oak planters.

In 2019 the Trust installed new garden signs, telling visitors more about John Ray and the plants in the garden.