Beverley Minster's secret garden open this weekend for the only time in 2020

You may not have seen inside the secret garden if you've visited Beverley Minster, but you're likely to have tasted its fruits.

The Vicar's Garden has been left to the canon of Beverley Minster in perpetuity
The Vicar's Garden has been left to the canon of Beverley Minster in perpetuity

This month the Vicar's Garden, as it is affectionately known, that supplies fresh produce to the Minster kitchens will be accessible as part of Heritage Open Days.

It is rarely open to the public but its custodians have decided to showcase this hidden 'wildlife haven' as a one-off.

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The patch of land was left to the incumbent vicar in perpetuity, and selling it would have no benefit, as the profits would go to the Diocese of York rather than remain in Beverley.

The land was originally an orchard and there are still several fruit trees that are over a century old

The first record of the garden was in 1828, when it is shown on a town map as an orchard. In 1865, it was advertised for sale, and for a time was owned by the Blue Coat School, which occupied the building where the parish office is now.

In 1878, it was sold to Harry Englehart, and by 1905 was in the hands of Canon Nolloth. The Canon drew up legal deeds leaving the orchard for the use of his successors as a parsonage garden.

When a new parsonage was built in the 1960s, it was situated close to the garden in honour of this bequest.

The garden was almost lost when in 2003, the vicar, Canon David Bailey, was offered a substanstial sum for it. As he was struggling with the garden's upkeep, he researched its history and discovered it had been left in trust, with the maintenance the responsiblity of the parish rather than the vicar himself.

Sue Robson in the garden, which supplies flowers for displays in Beverley Minster and fruit for the catering team

The garden was saved, and Joyce Shaw, who had been in charge of flower displays for the Minster, offered to take it on.

She continued to grow flowers for the Minster, and used organic techniques. She cared for the six fruit trees - each over a century old - and began to supply produce to the Minster's catering team.

She encouraged wildlife through planting wildflowers, grasses and providing log piles.

She restored the pond, the pig sties and the Victorian summerhouse, which had fallen into disrepair after being vandalised in 1995.

The Victorian summerhouse and pig sties have been gradually restored after falling into dereliction

In 2018 - the year Joyce retired from her duties - the Vicar's Garden was entered into the Britain in Bloom competiion and won one of the 14 National People's Awards. Joyce herself received a Community Champions Award for her work.

Two years ago, head gardener Judith Smith and her team took on the garden, and they have plans to develop it further, with new planting, a woodland area, memorial benches and further restoration of the pond. They also wish to create a kitchen garden for community use.

In 1843, a visitor to Beverley named Walter White climbed to the top of the Minster tower and looked down upon the garden, writing of it: “Looking down from a great height the gardens seem diminished, and the trim flower beds, leafy arbours, and pebble paths, and angular plots, and a prevailing neatness reveal much in favour of the domestic virtues of the inhabitants. The effect is heightened by green spaces among bright red roofs, and woods which straggle in patches into the town, whereby it retains somewhat of the sylvan aspect for which it was in former times especially”.

Tours of the Vicar's Garden and the nearby Quiet Garden run from 11am-4pm on September 11 and 12, and from 1-4pm on September 13. Booking is not required.

The garden is open for just three days this year