A Place of Sanctuary and Quiet Contemplation

A medieval garden brought back to life by volunteers has provided the people of Higham Ferrers with a place of sanctuary and quiet contemplation during the Covid-19 pandemic. One NHS worker would sit on the bench to listen to the weekly clapping for key workers, for example, while families and friends found it a safe space in which to meet in the open air. Volunteer gardeners also found that tending the site was a welcome and therapeutic distraction during lockdown.

Now the walled garden of Chichele College is to be complemented by the addition of a new Duchy Barn Garden to the rear of the Ancient Scheduled Monument. In addition to enhancing the public’s impression on approaching Chichele College the garden will provide opportunities for members of the Higham Ferrers Gateway Club to gain practical experience of planting, pruning and growing, creating raised beds of vegetables and a herb garden as well as a wildlife area rich in biodiversity.

The Higham Ferrers Gateway Club is a registered charity for adults with a learning difficulty affiliated to Mencap.

Commenting on this latest phase of restoration, Duchy Regional Surveyor of Lands for the South Jon Sellick said: “We are very pleased with  the work that has already been done and extremely grateful to the dedicated band of volunteers who have weeded, planted, trimmed, pruned, propagated and sown to create this lovely garden. The new Duchy Barn Garden is an exciting addition to a well-loved community space and we look forward to watching it take shape in the months ahead.”

Chichele College is a rare surviving example of a chantry college, a type of institution common in England in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was founded by Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1422 as a college for secular canons. The term ‘college’ was then used to describe a community of priests who shared a communal life that was less strictly controlled than that within a monastery. Henry Chichele, who was born in Higham Ferrers, also founded St. John’s College and All Souls’ College in Oxford.

Today all that remains of Chichele College is a series of structures and building foundations representing four ranges around the College’s quadrangle. The ruins are under the guardianship of English Heritage www.english-heritage.org.uk.