History of the Gardens
There has been a garden of sorts since around 1100 AD when Bishop de Losinga began to build the cathedral and palace.
A historic private four-acre formal city centre garden has belonged to the Bishops of Norwich for over 900 years
One of Norwich’s hidden secrets, the Bishop’s Garden occupies 4 acres in the city centre. There has been a garden of sorts since around 1100 AD when Bishop de Losinga began to build the cathedral and palace. From the existing garden one can still marvel at the original detailing of Norman stonework on the North Transept of the cathedral which is only visible from the Bishop’s Garden.
In the early 14th century, Bishop John Salmon greatly increased the size of the garden by compulsory purchase of additional land. He pushed Bishopgate northwards, thereby extending the grounds to their present size. The high walls that still survive were built nearly 700 years ago. He was also responsible for the large hall that was added to a grand porch way. This ruin still stands in the garden and is known as Bishop Salmon’s Porch.
The visible chapel building that remains at the upper lawn terrace was built in around 1662 after Bishop Reynolds had destroyed the original 120ft long chapel and one of the largest halls of its time. Some of the stained glass windows visible today came from the previous building. Now used by Norwich School it is known as Bishop Reynold’s Library.
The last of the major medieval buildings in the Bishop’s Garden was Bishop Alnwick’s Gate, started by Bishop Alnwick in the early 1400s and completed by Bishop Lyhart in the mid-1400s.
The general form of the garden was laid down at least 300 years ago. The lower end was cultivated and separated by a wall running straight across the garden. The only remains of this wall are by the large London Plane tree that dominates the garden.
The colossal Old Bishop’s Palace, which still stands, was completed in around 1860. In 1959 a major change took place when a new Bishop’s House was built and the Old Palace came to be used by Norwich School. The garden was reduced from 6 ½ acres down to the present 4 acres. Records show that in the 1940s up to 15 gardeners were employed and in the 1950s 9 were employed. Now the garden is looked after by 1 fulltime and 1 part-time gardener.
The garden has many hidden delights for visitors such as the large traditional herbaceous borders, a small woodland walk, boxed rose beds, a long shade border with hostas, meconopsis and tree ferns. Also there is a large wild grass labyrinth and extensive shrubberies containing many rare and unusual plants, among these being a Hebe planted from a sprig taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet in 1840. There is an organic kitchen garden, bamboo walk, and a popular plant sales area and the garden continues to evolve with new plants and features being introduced year by year.
The Bishop’s Garden works in partnership with a number of other organisations. A small volunteer group give help in the Garden and we have also formed links with Easton College, thus helping horticulture students gain valuable experience. In 2012 the herbaceous borders became the show garden for the Eastern England Group (Anglia) of the Delphinium Society. The garden has also forged links with Harrod Horticultural in showcasing some of their new range of garden structures which were launched at The Chelsea Flower show in 2013.