One of our hidden gems, this tranquil and beautifully planted walled garden stands on the site of the monks’ dormitory that was once part of the great medieval Priory of St Swithun. It’s open to the public, and managed and maintained by volunteers.
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What will I find in the Dean Garnier Garden?
This small peaceful garden was created in the 1990s to commemorate Thomas Garnier, Dean of Winchester 1840–1872.
Resting quietly in the shadow of the medieval wall, the garden is a place of stillness and beauty, with a magnificent view of the Cathedral’s south transept. You’ll find it up a short flight of steps behind a fine 13th-century doorway leading off the Inner Close – just look for the sign.
At the top of the steps, you enter the first of three rather different ‘sections’ of the garden, all linked by medieval elements and maintained by a small team of volunteers.
First, you pass through the Dorter Garden, with its splendid medlar tree set in a lawn, surrounded by a herb garden and a white border.
From here, you pass through an arched arbour with climbing plants leading to the Presbytery Garden. If you look carefully, you’ll see a little stone fox lying curled up under a fine bench seat sheltered by a majestic beech tree to your right.
At the far end, you’ll find the Lady Chapel Garden, hidden behind a yew hedge. Here, a careful mix of flowering and foliage plants gives beautiful form and colour throughout the year. It’s a lovely place to sit and contemplate.
What used to be here?
The garden stands on the site of the communal dormitory from which the Benedictine monks of St Swithun’s Priory made their way into the south transept of the Cathedral for Mattins at 2am every morning – one of eight offices they observed during the course of the day.
Next to it, on the southeast side, was the monks’ wash place. Their lavatory stood over a branch of the Lockburn stream, a medieval culvert that served as Winchester’s only main drain until the 1870s.
When the monastery was dissolved in 1538, the newly appointed Dean and his Chapter of twelve canons were each entitled to individual houses. The monastic dormitory was no longer required, and it became part of the Dean’s garden. During the time of Dean Garnier, this area was a rose garden.
On the south side of the garden, you can see the remains of the old Deanery Bakehouse and the Deanery itself, parts of which date back to the 13th century.
Why commemorate Dean Garnier with a garden?
This busy Dean didn’t just lead the Cathedral – he was passionate about plants from an early age.
He was a founder member of the Hampshire Horticultural Society and created the beautiful garden and arboretum at nearby Bishopstoke Rectory. He also planted many of the magnificent mature trees that now surround the Cathedral.
He also worked tirelessly for the town of Winchester. In particular, he fought for better drainage arrangements, including the fine sewage pumping station still standing on Garnier Road, which finally helped banish the scourge of cholera, caused by dirty water, from the city.
So when this lovely ‘secret garden’ was created in 1995, it was dedicated to the kindly Dean’s memory.
Find out more
Download a Friends of Dean Garnier Garden leaflet
New members and helpers always welcome!
Become a garden volunteer
Email Sarah Williams or call her on 01962 857 225.
Visit our Dean Garnier Garden Facebook page
More information plus details of upcoming gardening sessions