Follow Us:

Bishop’s Garden

The Bishop of Norwich’s historic private garden is full of delights such as herbaceous borders, a small woodland walk, bee hives and more.

About the Garden

The garden is run organically and includes a herb garden, long herbaceous borders, ‘jungle’ walk, large wildflower labyrinth and fruit orchard, 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 a kitchen garden, a bamboo walk and a popular plant sales area, and the garden continues to evolve with new plants and features being introduced year by year.

A small volunteer group give help in the garden and we also take on a number of work experience students each year to aid them with their practical experience.

If you wish to visit the garden on open days, there is a small pay and display car park outside the entrance and a larger pay and display car park a few further yards down, just off Bishopgate and opposite the Adam and Eve pub.

History of the Garden

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 the 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 porchway. 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 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 full-time and 1 part-time gardener.

The garden has many hidden delights for visitors such as the long herbaceous borders, a small woodland walk, a recently added herb garden, a large shade border, a wildflower labyrinth and fruit orchard and extensive shrubberies containing many rare and unusual plants. 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 Gardeners

Sam Garland – BA Hons, MA, PGCert, RHS Dip. Hort. 2, 3 & 4

Sam Garland took on the role of Head Gardener in August of 2019. He moved from the Royal Horticultural Society Garden Wisley where he completed RHS levels 3 and 4 and immersed himself in a world of plants. Before working with the RHS he maintained the gardens at Swannington Manor and worked as a pest monitor on fruit farms across East Anglia, whilst studying for a PGCert in International Horticulture at Writtle College. His initial field of study was philosophy, in which he read an undergraduate degree at the University of East Anglia and a masters degree at Sheffield University.

A principal focus of Sam’s is to work with the Bishop of Norwich to initiate horticultural practices that raise the garden’s environmental credentials and make the garden a beacon of success for environmentally led horticulture.

Speaking about Sam’s appointment, Bishop Graham said:

“I am delighted that Sam will be joining the team at Bishop’s House as the Head Gardener. Sam impressed the interview panel with his passion for plants, his knowledge of horticulture, his experience of working with volunteers, and his vision to showcase the garden as a place where the care for the environment is taken seriously. I’m looking forward immensely to working with him and seeing how he develops the next chapter in the long history of this famous Norfolk garden.”

Victoria Bleksley – MSc, BSc, PGCert

Vic joined the team as Assistant Gardener in September 2021. To facilitate a career change, she completed a WRAGS traineeship in horticulture and is currently studying for RHS Level 2 certificate in horticulture. Vic is passionate about promoting sustainable practises and encouraging bio-diversity. She is interested in the beneficial effects of human interactions with plants, gardens and natural environments for well-being and is taking courses in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. Vic studied Psychology at Reading University and later completed a Masters degree in Business Psychology whilst working in corporate leadership development. Subsequently, she gained her Post Graduate Certificate in Person Centred Counselling and went on to work for a young persons charity as a youth and community worker.

Plant sales

Plants grown from the Bishop’s Garden are available to buy on Garden Open Days.

We sell a large range of plants from herbaceous perennials to specimen sized shrubs and bamboos.

They are mostly grown from seed or propagation out of the garden and are grown in peat free compost. Proceeds from plant sales go towards the running of the garden and new projects in the garden.

Opening dates & times

The Bishop’s Garden is open again in 2023 to raise money for local charities. The charities for spring/summer 2023 are:

  • 14 May – Home Start Norfolk
  • 21 May – John Aves Education Project
  • 4 June – It’s On The Ball
  • 11 June – The Princes Countryside Fund
  • 18 June – National Garden Scheme
  • 9 July – Hall School
  • 16 July – Marham Military Wives Choir
  • 23 July – Hope into Action
  • 30 July – Maddermarket Theatre
  • 6 August – Friends of Norwich Cathedral

Gates will be open from 1pm to 4.30pm, last entry at 4pm.  Admission price is £5 per adult. Accompanied children under 16 years and wheelchair users are free. Assistance Dogs only.

Refreshments will be on sale.  Plant and some other sales using a contactless card, or ‘cash in bucket’, system will be operating.

Bishop Graham and Rachel would be delighted if you were able to join them on one of these days.

Private Tours for groups can be arranged at mutually convenient times through the Bishop’s Finance and Facilities Assistant – email: louise.cumberland@dioceseofnorwich.org