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The Master's Garden, St Cross Hospital


St Cross Hospital has a walled garden with a fishpond. The Compton Garden was restored in the late 1980s with plants associated with the New World. It stands in water meadows below St Catherine's Hill.

A project was launched in the mid-1980s by the Winchester Conservation Society and the Hampshire Gardens Trust to restore part of the Master's Garden. It was officially opened by the Queen Mother in 1986 after she had opened Queen Eleanor's Garden. Victoria Wakefield designed the garden, named the Compton Garden, to incorporate plants from the New World similar to those that had been imported into England during the time of the Bishop of London, the Reverend Henry Compton (1632-1713).

Henry Compton was a keen gardener and by 1681 his garden in the Bishop's Palace at Fulham was notable, the work being supervised from the start by George London. In 1686, the gardener of William Penn in Pennsylvania hoped to make an arrangement with George London to supply him with trees, shrubs, flowers and seeds in exchange for the products of Pennsylvania.

Compton continued to encourage the importation of exotics which his position as head of the Church for the American Colonies enabled him to do. St Cross also has a very peaceful large walled garden with a fishpond and herbaceous borders.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

Opening times: Summer: 9.30-5pm Mon-Sat Sunday 1pm-5pm Winter: 10.30-3.30pm Mon-Sat Closed SundaysFor admission prices and opening times, please call or consult St Cross Hospital's website. 851375


The site was founded in 1132 by Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, for 13 poor men, with 100 others provided with dinner daily. It was under the Hospitallers until 1185 and had by then increased to 200. By the mid-13th-century the hospital had fallen into decay. The buildings were repaired by degrees and the Hospital recovered.

In 1445 the buildings were enlarged with the Almshouse of Noble Poverty built by Cardinal Beaufort. Throughout its history St Cross seems to have been noted for its gardens and it would not be surprising for the Masters to maintain fine gardens for themselves. Dr Markland, master from 1694 to 1728, took a great interest and converted the area to the south of the hospital into a fine formal garden adorned with a canal and evergreen shrubs. At least one ‘canal' can be recognised, as an earthwork along the west boundary of the medieval precinct.

The Ordnance Survey Field Investigator (6) 1961 reports that there are traces in St Cross Park, to the south of the present buildings, which are almost certainly those of the original 12th-century buildings. 100 metres squared is bounded on the west and south sides by a dry ditch with fragmentary river bank and on the east and part of the north sides by a stream. These features presumably marked the precincts of the hospital. In the north-east corner of the enclosed area is an L-shaped platform almost certainly representing a range of building foundations, although no stone or brickwork is visible. Within the angle of the range a vague platform probably represents another building.

Chris Currie suggests that there might have been a moat around an area which would not have had buildings within it. Therefore, it could possibly have been a garden. A visitor in 1722-23 is quoted as saying that the Master ‘...hath a very good apartment, with fine gardens adorned with a canal and evergreens...'.

There appears to have been a complete circuit of ditches and water courses suggesting that the site was adapted from an earlier moated garden. It seems to have contained an orchard when a survey of the hospital was undertaken in 1401. The survey also records a number of other gardens within the precinct, including a vegetable garden, the Porter's garden and the Home garden. The total area was in excess of 3.6 hectares. Humbert (1857) reports that an Act of Elizabeth I forbade the master from leasing ‘the orchards, gardens...lying within the precincts of the Hospital of St Cross'.

On the site of the present Master's house was the ‘Northgardyn', then an orchard. Surveys taken in the mid-1850s show that the boundary followed the outer edge of the ditches on the west and south side of the field known as St Cross Park. Parkland trees can be seen today.


  • Medieval (1066 to 1540)
  • 12th Century
Features & Designations


  • Conservation Area


  • Garden Wall
  • Fishpond
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Hospital (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Medieval (1066 to 1540)



Open to the public




  • Hampshire Gardens Trust