The Project

Creation of a medieval-style garden

The aim of the project is to ensure that many more people are able to enjoy the charms of the Chichele College grounds, with the development of a medieval-style cloister garth (garden) providing easy access for both wheelchairs and pushchairs.

The Chichele College Cloister Garth was formally opened on Saturday 2 June 2012.

Chichele College

Chichele College, which stands on Duchy land to the north side of the town, is one of the many jewels in the town’s historically rich crown.

The college was founded c.1425 as a place for prayer and learning. But since Henry VIII closed and destroyed all but the building in 1542, the site has been an inn (The Saracen’s Head) and a farm, before being taken over by the Ministry of Works and more recently by English Heritage who have overall responsibility for the site.

This English Heritage site is now locally managed by the Higham Ferrers Tourism, Business and Community Partnership.

How the project started …

In 2006, in response to an East Northants Council action plan for market towns in our area, we put forward the idea of developing a Medieval Style Garden with a cloister garth and trellised division; the concept being in keeping with the period of the college, which was founded by Higham Ferrers born Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Chichele in 1425.

How the project was funded …

Although over £5,000 was raised through various activities, including ‘Pledge a Plant’, more money was needed for the hard landscaping and contracted work. A successful lottery bid allowed this work to begin.

"We are delighted that our Big Lottery bid, through Community Spaces, has been rewarded with a £21,000 plus grant and after five years of planning, fund raising and negotiation, work on the site began on 11 October 2011."

Project Manager, Carol Fitzgerald

And work began …

Volunteers cleared the designated areas in late October, in readiness for planting the pledged roses, lilies, lavenders and other plants and trees, of the medieval period. Adult volunteers came from local groups; The Chichele Society, The Archaeological Society and Rushden and Higham U3A, as well as enthusiastic individuals. Children from nursery, infant and senior schools were also involved, planting bulbs and trees in the autumn.

The Cloister Garth has four square grassed areas divided by paths, with a gothic urn as a centrepiece.

A medieval style trellis and archway divides the site and leads into the larger grassed area. This recreational area will be used for a wide range of events to suit all age groups and the community is fully involved in the planting and maintenance of the garden.

Volunteers hard at work

Cloister Garth

"Our organisation is so grateful for the support we’ve encountered through five years of planning. We are especially pleased that so many people from different organisations have been behind our efforts. It’s great that we shall have all age groups involved with the creation and maintenance of the garden and wonderful that this once hidden gem will soon be alive with people and plants."

Gwen Tobin, Chair of Higham Ferrers Tourism, Business and Community Partnership

The Chichele College Medieval Style Garden Project has been funded through the Community Spaces Programme which is being managed by Groundwork UK as an Award Partner to the Big Lottery Fund. Community Spaces is part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces initiative.