Hidden in the centre of Norwich is a lovely private garden for the Bishop with herbaceous borders, a woodland walk, a wildflower labyrinth, and much more. On select days, the public is allowed in to enjoy this secret garden.
Thanks to the 2022 Heritage Open Days, I finally got my chance. Let me tell you more about the Bishop’s Garden in Norwich.
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The History of the Bishop’s Garden
There has been a garden of sorts on this site since Bishop de Losinga began to build the cathedral and palace (around the beginning of the 12th century). It has undergone a lot of change over the years to become the Bishop’s Garden we know today.
The entrance to the Bishop’s House and Gardens is marked by the Bishop Alnwick’s Gate which was started by Bishop Alnwick in the early 1400s and completed by Bishop Lyhart in the mid-1400s. The high walls you see around the Garden are nearly 700 years old.
In the early 14th century, Bishop John Salmon purchased more land to increase the size of the garden which moved Bishopgate northwards. He also added a large hall with a grand porchway. While the hall has not withstood the test of time, you can still see the ruin of the porchway which is called Bishop Salmon’s Porch.
The Chapel on the upper lawn was built by Bishop Reynolds in 1662 after he destroyed the original 36 metre long chapel. They used some of the stained glass windows from the previous building. Unfortunately, you will not be able to go inside this building as it is now Bishop Reynold’s Library and used by Norwich School.
The general design of the garden took shape at least 300 years ago. The lower end was planted and separated by a wall which you can still see by the large London Plane tree that dominates the garden.
The Old Bishop’s Palace was completed in around 1860, but is now used by Norwich School. The Bishop’s House used today was built in 1959.
At the same time, the garden was reduced from 6 ½ acres down to the present 4 acres. While up to 15 gardeners were employed in the 1940s today the garden is looked after by one full-time and one part-time gardener.
What to See at the Bishop’s Garden
As you wander through the four-acre garden, there are a few features that you won’t want to miss. Be sure to bring your camera as it is quite photogenic.
Bishop Alnwick’s Gate
The gate to enter the Bishop’s House and Gardens is grand enough that many people think it is the entrance to the Cathedral. It was finished in the 15th century and named after the Bishop that started building it.
Bishop Salmon’s Porch
This porch would have led to a grand hall that was built in the 14th century. Step inside and look up to see the medieval bosses.
Bishop Reynold’s Chapel
While you can’t go inside this chapel, you can admire it from the outside. Stand in front of it and take in one of the best views of the Bishop’s Garden.
Follow this path and you will see the white gate leading to Norwich Cathedral, this view of the North Transept of the cathedral can only be seen from the Bishop’s Garden.
The path for the woodland walk is a little hidden but worth finding. It’s a short journey that feels miles away from the city centre.
The main lawn is a large area of grass in the centre of the garden that is used for garden parties, charitable events, and other events. Although the grass on the main lawn was greener than many other places in Norwich, you could see the impact of the recent drought when I visited.
Parterre and Pond
This section was created in the early 1900s when the box hedging, pergola, and fountain were added. It was recently redesigned to be a herb garden focusing on plants with a medicinal use. Be sure to walk to the centre to get a good view of the pond and listen to the soothing sound of the fountain.
Hosta and Rose Walk
Along the wall closest to the parterre, you will find the hosta and rose walk. When I visited in September, the flowers were a little past their prime, but I can imagine this is quite a pretty area especially with the church tower in the background.
Orchard & Perennial Wildflower Labyrinth
I enjoyed walking through the wildflower labyrinth even though the flowers were no longer blooming. The Orchard was recently planted as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy for her Platinum Jubilee. You can also see beehives by the hedge border.
Queen Victoria’s Hebe
It may look like your average bush but it was grown from a clipping of Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet in 1840. Cuttings have been given to Queen Elizabeth II for her Silver Jubilee in 1977 and for Golden Jubilee in 2002 and to The Princess of Wales for her wedding bouquet in 1981. The last clipping given to the Queen was planted at Sandringham.
The herbaceous borders section of the Bishop’s Garden was my favourite. The bright and vibrant colours of the flowers combined with the views of the rest of the garden were special.
Also don’t miss the classical sculpture hidden just behind the herbaceous borders (it’s not marked on the map).
The Jungle Walk was another unexpected area that felt almost like somewhere on a tropical island with the moai statue and palm trees.
Those that want their own piece of the Bishop’s Garden at home can purchase plants in the section between the herbaceous borders and the kitchen garden.
They grow quite an array of organic fruits and vegetables in the kitchen garden which are used by Bishop Graham and his family as well as for his ministry of hospitality. I wish they would have had more signs labeling the plants but there were quite a few familiar ones.
While you can’t go inside the Greenhouse, it’s easy to see the plants (tomatoes and peppers) growing there.
The bambooserie is another unexpected walk where you feel as though you have been transported far from Norwich city centre with 45 different species of bamboo.
Norwich Bishop’s Garden FAQs
The Bishop’s Garden is located by Norwich Cathedral. The entrance gate is off of St. Martin-At-Palace Plain.
The admission charge is £5 per adult. Accompanied children under 16 years old and wheelchair users are free.
Yes, they have refreshments for sale at the Granary Court.
Yes, they are located at Granary Court.
The only dogs allowed in the Bishop’s Garden are assistance dogs.
Yes! It’s a quiet (and pretty) place to relax in the city centre. It’s too bad that this hidden gem is not open every day.
If you enjoyed the Bishop’s Garden, be sure to also check out our list of the best gardens to visit in Norwich.