Secret London: College Garden – Exploring the historic Gardens of Westminster Abbey

On 21 June, I attended the annual gathering of authors, illustrators, agents and media hosted by Penguin Random House publishers at College Garden. These green oases, nestled within the Abbey precincts, have provided solace and inspiration for centuries.

London, a bustling metropolis known for its iconic landmarks and vibrant atmosphere, is home to hidden gems that offer respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. Amongst these treasures are the enchanting gardens of Westminster Abbey, steeped in history and tranquillity. College Garden was the ideal backdrop for us ‘nerds of the imagination and communication’.

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College Garden – A tapestry of history and beauty 

Tucked away within the walls of Westminster Abbey lies College Garden, a living testament to the Abbey’s rich heritage and centuries of cultivation. Dating back over 900 years, this remarkable garden served as a vital source of sustenance for the Abbey’s inhabitants during monastic times. Fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs flourished in harmony with the orchard, fishponds, and beehives that dotted the landscape. A herbarium, established in 1306, further exemplified the monks’ dedication to the botanical arts.

College Gardens Westminster abbey London Mums magazine Monica Costa collage

While practicality played a significant role, the College Garden was also a place of exquisite beauty. Laid out meticulously and adorned with roses and lilies, it provided solace and inspiration to those who tended to it. Supervised by the Abbey’s Infirmarer and diligently cared for by a team of monks serving as gardeners, the garden offered respite from their daily spiritual obligations. Today, College Garden stands as a serene haven, where visitors can relax amidst its timeless splendour. Additionally, during the summer months, the garden is available for bookings, offering a unique and captivating venue for events and garden parties.

 

Unearthing history: Oldest garden in England

Immersed in history, College Garden is often revered as the oldest garden in England under continuous cultivation. Its origins can be traced back to the infirmary garden of the monastery situated on Thorney Island, a thousand years ago. Despite the bustling surroundings, the garden emanates a serene ambience, inviting visitors to pause and appreciate its historical significance. In homage to the Abbey’s herbarium, a new herb garden was established in 2010, commemorating the enduring connection between the past and present.

The gardens of Westminster Abbey, with their centuries-old legacy and enchanting beauty, offer a sanctuary of calm in the heart of London. College Garden reveals glimpses of the Abbey’s historical tapestry while providing visitors with a serene and immersive experience. Whether you seek a tranquil retreat to appreciate nature’s wonders or aspire to host a remarkable event, these gardens transport you to a world where time seems to stand still. 

 

Summer celebration 2023

College Gardens Westminster abbey London Mums magazine Monica Costa food collage

During Penguin’s summer party on the first day of summer, a stylish marquee, complete with a decked porch area, transformed the garden into an idyllic relaxed networking haven for like-minded writers. Uniting heritage and elegance, College Garden, with its timeless charm and and stunning views of the Abbey and Victoria Tower, made the perfect backdrop for memorable conversations about books and poetry sparkling ideas the  Dead Poets’ Society would be proud of. 

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Posing with the lovely Nadine Wild-Palmer, singer, actor, writer

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Second from the left is Jenni Fletcher, author of Regency Novels for Teens like ‘Two Dukes and a Debutante’

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Poet Becksy Beck

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A couple of minutes walk from College Garden and you see Big Ben and Westminster Parliament in its best views

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