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The Old Deanery Garden, King's Orchard and Cloister Garth


All three gardens have symbolic value, but in different forms: the cloister garth is a reminder of monastic tradition and priestly routine, the Deanery Garden is now a tranquil green space for local people and visitors to enjoy, and the King’s Orchard remains secluded, ancient and mysterious. The gardens now (2014) form publicly-accessible spaces within the Cathedral Precincts, one functioning as a tea rooms’ garden and the cloister garth containing memorial plantings to commemorate local people.

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Medway:

Statement of Significance:

The age of open spaces and garden areas and their enclosing buildings, their unbroken occupation since C8 as an ecclesiastical complex and the many physical changes to that complex over the 14 centuries give the garden areas archaeological potential to reveal new evidence of their historic functions and appearance; an extensive archive of primary and secondary sources provides potential for evidence for the gardens' existence from the C12 and their use, ownership and appearance from then until today.

Historical value is demonstrated through the high level of surviving fabric incorporated into the gardens and their enclosing walls, both Roman and C13 in the case of the Deanery Garden and the King's Orchard. Priory buildings dating from the C14 form the cloister east wall and the square space of the cloister garth. The Deanery Garden, taking its name from a C17 building, has associations with famous C19 gardeners: Dean Samuel Hole laid out a garden and planted a rose collection in the 1890s and his several books refer to the opinions and comments of two nationally important gardeners, William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll, who were his friends and associates. Dean Hole's plantings do not survive, but the enclosing space in which it was laid out, together with contemporary paintings, photographs and correspondence, help to illustrate and evoke its appearance.

All three garden spaces have strong aesthetic value derived from their location within, and intellectual association with, the designed setting of the cathedral buildings and the associated views. The cloister garth survives as an example of the typical Benedictine cloister garden aesthetic.

The Precincts garden areas have strong spiritual and social significance as reminders of this site's long history of Christianity as the second oldest Cathedral foundation in England. They also represent an equally long and peculiarly British amalgam of gardening traditions. All three gardens have symbolic value, but in different forms: the cloister garth is a reminder of monastic tradition and priestly routine, the Deanery Garden is now a tranquil green space for local people and visitors to enjoy, and the King's Orchard remains secluded, ancient and mysterious.



The Old Deanery Garden and the adjoining King's Orchard lie within the Precincts of Rochester Cathedral, to the south-west of the Cathedral which is sited 0.4km from the south end of Rochester Bridge where the A2 Watling Street crosses the River Medway. The c 1.7ha site is bordered to the north-west by Cathedral buildings, Minor Canon Row and the buildings of Kings School beyond, to the north-east by the buildings and the variously fenced and hedged grounds of Rochester High Street, to the south-west by the 1225 city wall and ‘The Vines' open space immediately beyond and to the south-east by, again, the 1225 city wall and the buildings and back gardens on Crow Lane. The two garden areas are separated by a metalled private road, known as 'King's Orchard', which runs north-west to south-east centrally across the site from Minor Canon Row to the City wall.

The absence of a formal, high status entrance into either the Old Deanery Garden or the King's Orchard results in a hidden, almost private aspect and one that is not explicitly acknowledged. The Gardens' setting, within the complex of the Precinct's many grassed open spaces, mature trees and ancient buildings, comprises a landscape of ‘relatively quiet open space' (Rochester Conservation plan 2011).


The Old Deanery Garden's principal approach is through the Old Deanery tearooms which open onto a semi-circular grassed area, presently the tea room's outside seating area. This area is divided from the remaining, south-eastern, section of the Old Deanery Garden by a yew hedge and gate. Access to King's Orchard is via this gate. A further entrance to the King's Orchard is off the southwest side of King's Orchard road, through a gap in the wall between Mackean House and Easter Garth. The road serves the four clergy houses in the King's Orchard.


The south-east front of the building is a three storey, symmetrical, late-C18 2:3:2: bay house with centre bays projecting under a brick pediment. The renewed brick parapet has a cornice band and stone coping. Twelve-pane hornless sash windows have red brick dressings throughout. The roofs are Kent tile and Welsh slate. The former Deanery is a late-medieval priory (listed grade l) with early C16 work in a building dating mainly from its origin in 1640 with alterations from 1765-75 and later, C19, additions. Now in use as the Cathedral's tea rooms, the Old Deanery was built over the south-east part of the former chapterhouse of the Benedictine Priory which was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1540. The portion of the building marked as ‘The College' on the current (2014) OS map forms a part of the original Deanery. Easter Garth, which abuts the Deanery garden approximately 13m to the south-west of the Deanery, is built on the site of the Deanery's former coach house


The Old Deanery Garden comprises lawns and plantings of trees and shrubs, mainly of C20 date, although some of the larger trees appear from their size to be older. Some 22m south-east of the Old Deanery a gate and yew hedge, installed in the late C20, separate the area used by the Cathedral tea rooms from the rest of the garden. South of the south-east-facing, garden front of the Old Deanery, against which is planted a Magnolia grandiflora, there is a curving bed of mature trees, including a red-leaved Turkish hazel (Corylus cornua) and seasonal underplanting. On the south-west side of the garden there are shrubs including fuchsias, shrub roses and acers closely planted over mounded ground, this planting extending south-westwards for 20m towards a remaining section of Roman wall, abutting it in part. The mounded ground has some dense and now rather overgrown underplanting. The Roman wall, (possibly early C3 and listed grade I) with a much exposed rubble core on its north-east side, extends for about 30 metres and stands about 1.5 metres high. On the south-west side of the wall, facing onto King's Orchard road, the ground is grassed and has plantings of rose bushes; the Roman wall section here is c2.5m high. A sketch from one of Dean Hole's books (Our Gardens) and a description by Gertrude Jekyll: ‘another old wall, that is within the garden, has been made the home of many a good rock plant' (Some English Gardens), suggest that Hole planted the wall as a prominent rock garden.

While nothing apparently survives now (2014) of Dean Hole's layout or plantings, paintings by George Elgood (c1904) and Earnest Rowe which include a view of the Cathedral tower (pre 1904 as the spire has not yet been reconstructed), and comparisons with photographs of the Deanery in the 1900s, suggest that Hole's garden probably lay to the south-west of the section of Roman wall.

Photographs of Dean Hole himself (dated 1901) in front of the Deanery show its garden to have broad expanses of lawn with a path leading south-westwards similar in position to that recorded on the 1866 OS map. While photographs from the late C19 (MALSC) record beds and features which are now gone, some evidence survives from the early C20: a photograph of a sundial, also showing roses in place, was said to be in Dean Hole's garden in 1920 (MALSC ref no. C050958410); a drawing of a different, anchor-shaped sundial, by Warrington Hogg dated 1899 and also said to be in Dean Hole's garden, was published in 1917 in Old Sundials and their Mottoes. An undated photograph of this same sundial shows it positioned in dense herbaceous bedding in the garden of East Canonry, one of the houses built in the 1960s in King's Orchard. This anchor sundial was mentioned as having featured in a painting by Elgood (Millicent Morrison, Windsor Magazine, 1901). The 1866 OS 1:500 map shows a sundial positioned approximately where East Canonry now stands. From a photograph and text in Millicent Morrison's article it is clear that Dean Hole also cultivated the area to the west of the Deanery as she describes ‘another picturesque bit meets the eye just where fragments of an ancient chapter-house remain beneath windows of the Deanery'.

In 1990 the area between the north-eastern boundary wall of Easter Garth and the south-western end of the Old Deanery building was reconstructed as a herb garden or herbarium, 'created by gardener Alan Nelson using plants that would have been found in Priory Gardens' (Salter). According to St John Hope this is the likely place for the monastery herbal garth to have been located. Hope notes that it was 'Recorded as lying east of the monks dorter (dormitory) beneath which was the infirmary, was the kitchen yard of the deanery' (Cathedral Church and Monastery).

Beyond the end of the Roman wall the Old Deanery garden opens out to the south-east and south-west with a small group of cypress trees close to the line of the King's Orchard road. At the garden's south-east boundary, formed by the course of the city wall, are some informally-planted large specimen trees including limes and maples and evidence of others having been removed. Some of these trees indicate a growth in excess of a hundred years. At the city wall, and along a short path running north-west through the Cathedral residences, the King's Orchard opens out to the south-west, its topography sloping steeply downwards and across the City ditch and up to the south-west boundary of the City wall. The King's Orchard is an enclosed area of c1.2 ha, laid to grass with old fruit trees planted across the great ditch and covering most of the area. A prominent feature is a centrally-planted mature medlar.

A view north from the King's Orchard towards the Deanery as depicted on postcards from the 1890s shows it largely unchanged today (2014) apart from the subdivision of the space by yew hedging.



Rochester Cathedral Precincts lie 0.4km from the south end of Rochester Bridge where the A2 Watling Street crosses the River Medway. The conventual buildings were unusually placed to the south of the Cathedral choir rather than as the standard Benedictine position on the north side. The small cloister garth of c0.13ha is enclosed by the Cathedral on its north-east side, remnants of the cloister buildings on the south-east and south-west sides; it is bounded to the north-west by further open space of the Precincts off College Yard. From the extreme west corner there is a path which leads to the original Cloister Gate which gave access to the cloister through the Priory wall (currently, 2014, not in public use).


There are two approaches to the cloister garth: from College Yard which leads westwards off the High Street, then skirts the north-west end of the Cathedral. From this point a path runs along the south-west side of the Cathedral to reach the cloister garth. A second approach is in the east corner of the garth, through the former Priory's Chapterhouse building and connecting the cloister garth with the Old Deanery tea rooms.


The cloister garth is a flat, open, mostly grassed square with a few trees including a mature magnolia (standing 20m south-west of the Cathedral's south-west wall); this grassed area is surrounded by a perimeter walk and has herbaceous planting along its south-western perimeter at the base of a wall, the whole length of which marks the location of the cellarer's lodging within the former Priory (Atherton, Priory map of 1540).

The square garth comprises a raised bed dressed with grass except for a border of rose bushes planted at the western and eastern sides of this grassed area and two oblong rose beds set within the grass square on its the northerly side. A large wooden crucifix lies on the grass centrally at the eastern side, near the ruins of the chapterhouse. Some of the rose bushes have been donated in memory of local people. This central square has a stone wall of varying heights supporting its east and west sides to accommodate the difference in levels of the land, which gives it the appearance of it being raised. At the east side the wall is c1m high and there are steps at the north and the south corners to access the lower level walkway. The wall on the west side is c40cms at its north end, diminishing to 20cms at its south end.

The land bordering the garth to the west is at a higher level than the garth itself. On this area, between the garth and the entrance gate from College Yard road, is a mature copper beech that frames the Garth.

In the south-west corner, near the frater doorway, beneath a mulberry tree (symbolising the crucifixion) there is a sculpture of the Madonna and child by John Doubleday installed in 1980 to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the Cathedral's consecration. There are also garden benches along the east wall.

The cloister garth's original layout appears to have been a grassed area; details of its mowing were recorded in the monastery payrolls (St John Hope 1900). There are few references to the garth after the Dissolution when it seems to have been of little importance. At one point, around 1750, it appears to have been divided up into small gardens or vegetable plots for use by the prebendals as can be seen from a print in Custumale Roffense (John Thorpe 1788, plate 33 p151). In 1801 a map (D Alexander March) records it as ‘Mr Foster's garden'. A photograph of 1915 shows a tree which may be the present magnolia; in the photograph most of the archways in the surviving east wall of the cloister that are currently open were bricked up, which may reflect its use then as a private garden (C.C .DE 402/6/77, MALSC). An aerial picture postcard from 1932 (Couchman collection DE 402/6/63) shows several big trees standing close to the Cathedral's south-west wall (on the edge of the grassed area) which have since been removed. In the 1930s the garth was in use as a simple garden of a prebendal house built on it in the south-west corner; the house was demolished in 1937. A photograph shows the garden set with flower beds and shrubs (DE 402/6/76L, MALSC).

From 1937 the Friends of the Cathedral took responsibility for the up-keep of the cloister garth. A grant of £7,500 from them is made annually towards the upkeep of the garth.


Books and articles

Historic Rochester Conservation Area Appraisal Plan, Medway Council, September 2010

John Worlidge, Vinetum Britannecum 1767

John Thorpe, Custumale Roffense 1788

W H St John Hope MA, Cathedral Church and Monastery of St Andrew at Rochester 1900

G H Palmer BA, Bell's Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Rochester 1890s

Samuel Denne and William Shrubsole, The History and Antiquities of Rochester and its Environs, 2nd ed. 1772 and 1817

More Flora and Fauna in the Monastic Precinct, Joan Greatrex, Carleton University Canada

Medieval Art Architecture and Archaeology, p xii 2006, BAA, Leeds.Arch. Cant. XX1: Medieval Rochester GM Livett 1894

Archaeologia Cantiana LXII 1949 p.38

Nigel Yates & Paul A Welsby, Faith and Fabric a History of Rochester Cathedral 604 to 1994, 1996

Henry Winkles, Thomas Moule, Architectural and Picturesque Illustrations of the Cathedral Churches of England and Wales Vol. 1 (1936)

Edward Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the county of Kent 1798

Millicent Morrison, The King of the Roses, Dean Hole at Rochester, Millicent Morrison, Windsor Magazine 1901 p341-9

G.A.B Dewar, The Letters of Samuel Reynolds Hole, Dean of Rochester 1907

Gertrude Jekyll, Some English Gardens, Longmans, Green and Co. 1904

City of Rochester Society Newsletter August 2012 article by Pat Salter p7.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004

S Reynolds Hole, Our Gardens, Dent 1899

J Newman, ed. N Pevsner, Buildings of England, West Kent and the Weald, 1988

Medway Council: Historic Rochester Conservation Appraisal, 2009

Rochester Cathedral Forward Plan: Renewing the Vision, 2013-2018

GSB Prospection Ltd: GPR Survey of the Old Deanery Garden Area, 2010

Old Sundials and their Mottoes, Foulis, 1917.

GPR Survey of the Old Deanery Garden, Rochester Cathedral 2010/59, held by the KCC


Ordnance Survey 1st edn. 25'' map 1862 -75

Ordnance Survey 2nd edn. 25'' map 1897-1900

Ordnance Survey 3rd edn. 25'' map 1907-23

Ordnance Survey 4th edn. 25'' map 1929-52

Facsimile of a plan of the precinct of Rochester cathedral by Daniel Alexander March, 1801

Livett map, 1894

Hasted map of Rochester 1798

Priory map of 1540 by J Atherton from Mediaeval Art and Architecture and Archaeology, T Ayers & T Tatton Brown, 2006

R Sale's map of Rochester 1816

John Speed map c1600

George Russell map, 1717

Daniel Alexander March map, 1801

Tithe map for St Margaret's Parish Rochester, 1846


Dean Hole's Garden, a watercolour by Ernest Rowe - Bridgeman Art Library, (no date given but pre 1904)

The Deanery Garden Rochester, a watercolour by George Elgood in Gertrude Jekyll, Some English Gardens, Longmans, Green and Co. 1904

Bill Brandt, photograph of the Deanery, English Heritage, 1942

Deanery Gate, a drawing by Marion Smith, a local artist, 2003 (privately owned)

The Old Deanery, a drawing by Marion Smith, 2003

Cloister Garth, a drawing by Marion Smith, 2003

Entrance to the Cloister Garth, a drawing by Marion Smith, 2003

Prior's gate with Minor Canon's Row, a drawing by Marion Smith, 2003

Photograph of Dean Hole in Vanity Fair, 8th July 1895

A photograph of Dean Hole and his family 1901

Engraving of Cathedral Close showing Deanery Gate, 1800, MALSC

Archival items held at MALSC

Textus Roffensis (1122)

Registrum Roffense (1319-1352)

E H Couchman Collection of postcards, photographs

Dean and Chapter of Rochester archives

Research by Barbara Piper and Janet Mayfield

Virginia Hinze (editor)


The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Medway:


A series of three gardens, one C12 and two surviving from the period of their original layout as part of the C14 expansion of the Priory around its church (later the Cathedral Precincts), all reverted, post Dissolution, to ownership and occupation by the Dean and Chapter. They include the C12 cloister garth and the garden created in the late C19/early C20 by the well-known rose gardener and writer, Dean Hole. The gardens now (2014) form publically-accessible spaces within the Cathedral Precincts, one functioning as a tea rooms' garden and the cloister garth containing memorial plantings to commemorate local people


Rochester Cathedral was founded in AD 604 by the Anglo Saxon King Ethelbert. Little remains of the original Saxon Cathedral (Livett's map 1894) other than the outline of the apse visible in the floor of the present cathedral. Earlier Roman remains were incorporated into the south-eastern wall of the cloister garth and parts of the Roman town wall are evident in the present day King's Orchard.

After the conquest, in 1080, Gundulf, a Norman monk and architect and later first Norman bishop of Rochester, built a new cathedral over the Saxon site and founded a Benedictine Priory alongside which, according to G H Palmer (Bell's Cathedrals) 'was built on 3 acres of land within the city walls acquired by the monks by a deed executed by Gundulf'. Bishop Odo (Earl of Kent and brother of William the Conqueror) is also reputed to have given land to the monks, outside the walls, for further gardens and vineyards called Vinefields. Gundulf divided the existing cathedral property between the new Priory and the bishopric. The present road, ‘The Precincts', marks this boundary.

The typical Benedictine monastery layout, an adapted version of which was adopted at Rochester, had within its precinct wall several types of garden or green space, the principal one being the cloister garth which was enclosed by the cloister walls. A smaller garth was attached to the infirmary which was cultivated as a herb garden for medicinal herbs. Within the precinct the cellarers had their own kitchen gardens where they grew herbs for flavouring food. Other domestic buildings included stables, pigsties, a poultry run, a granary and other essential work units.

The history of Rochester Priory however is not well documented, much archival evidence being lost in the suppression of the monasteries in 1541. The Priory seems to have begun as modest establishment; according to Textus Roffensis, a mediaeval manuscript c1122-24. Bishop Gundulf rebuilt the Saxon cathedral in 1083 and constructed offices for monks as far as capacity of the site allowed. The initial 22 monks had increased to 66 at his death in 1108. The size and location of the 3 acres (required for the standard Benedictine layout) had to be adapted and the buildings tailored to the site; their overall extent was also smaller than that of the average contemporary Benedictine monastery.

The Priory seems to have had a garden (or gardens) as the Textus Roffensis says that "Odo the Bishop of Bayeux gave (in exchange for part of the Castle area) three acres to the church for our monks to make their garden beside the wall outside the gate which they have now enclosed with a wall on every side".This additional piece of land appears to have included part of the Roman city ditch.

In 1114 Bishop Ernulf built a dorter (dormitory), chapterhouse and new bakehouse and a frater (refectory). Portions of later cloister buildings, which replaced these wooden ones destroyed in a fire of 1179, survive in part today.Originally these seem to have been planned by laying out 130 sq ft (12.077 sq m) in an angle formed by the east range of Gundulf's buildings and the Roman wall; by this time the wall was in part destroyed and a new, less substantial, onebuilt to the south of it. Later Ernulf extended the Priory on land outside the city walls with additional buildings, thus extending the Priory boundary. The cloister enclosed a garth or grass plot which the payrolls show was regularly mown (St John Hope, 1900).

Although traditionally monks are not known to have made wine, there is clear evidence from several charters in the Registrum Roffense (1319-1352) that Rochester Priory had a vineyard. John Worlidge wrote later in his Vinetum Britannecum (1767) that "Great quantities of grapes grew here, and produced fine wines; Bishop Haymo de Hethe presented king Edward II (who was then at Bockinfold) with a taste of his wine (C1340)". The vineyard was turned over to pasture after the dissolution of the Priory (Salter).

In 1225 the limits of the city were extended to the south-west when a new wall was erected, the wall functioning as the city's boundary until 1344 (Livett's map of 1894). In that year the Priory wall was again extended on the south-west side of the present Deanery garden (north-west of ‘The Vines' open space) to St. Margaret's Street and north towards Southgate. These extensions provided additional land for both the Cathedral and the Priory whose landholdings now extended southwards beyond the city walls to ‘The Vines'. As part of the enlargement of the Priory at this time, gateways were erected within existing and new, enclosing walls. These included the surviving Prior's gate to the south of the Cathedral's main transept and St William's gate to the north of it (the latter now the site of a post-office). There was a door to the Priory cemetery at the west end of the Cathedral (the cemetery extending around to the east end of the Cathedral) and a Deanery gate to keep the Priory grounds private. A print of 1800 (Couchman collection) shows gardens to either side of a path across the north front of the Cathedral, leading to the Deanery gate (also known as the Sextry gate). A fifth, Porter's, gate was built at the southern end of the Cathedral's west front. Of these only the Deanery and Prior's gates survive today (2014). College Gate, to the north of the cathedral, survives as one of the three gates built as part of the c1344 extension of the precinct and the city wall. Currently known as College Gate, it has also been known as Cemetery Gate, Chertsey's gate and Jasper's Gate.

The Priory was surrendered in April 1540. Hasted says that following the Dissolution of the monasteries, the Priory was closed and in 1541, through a charter, Henry VIII established a cathedral church with a dean and chapter comprising a dean and six prebendaries, who were to be priests. Walter Philippes, the late prior of the monastery, was made the first dean. Henry's charter granted to the Dean and Chapter and their successors 'the site and precincts of the former monastery, the church there, and all things whatsoever within it - - - excepting and reserving to the king the particular buildings therein mentioned' - - - ' which premises, or at least the greatest part of them, seem to have been afterwards granted to the Dean and Chapter' (Hasted). No date is suggested as to the length of time this transfer took.

The History and Antiquities of Rochester (Fisher/Shrubsole) records that, as well as buildings, Henry's charter usefully describes a number of gardens which existed at the time of the Dissolution: it refers to the fact that 'a reserve was made, to the king's use, of divers buildings and parcels of land; some of which were, and others were considered to have been, within the common precinct of the monastery. Of the latter sort were the king's chamber; the king's chapel, with a garden adjoining; a house called ‘the almonry,' with a garden adjoining; a house called ‘le chambers lodgings,' with a garden and little orchard adjoining [the position of these is not recorded]. Reference is also made to ‘an orchard called "Le Covent Gardeyn" belonging to the infirmary and the land called "Le Uppdyche" (filled 1225) within an orchard enclosed ' (the almonry is shown on Livett's map of 1894; the others appear on Atherton's map).

The Deanery, now (2014) known as the Old Deanery was built in 1640 over the east part of the Chapter house of the Priory. A plaque on the house confirms that 'The deanery is situated where the prior's lodging formerly stood with its gardens extending south-eastward' (Henry Winkle 1936).

The present-day division of the former precinct land between that occupied by the Dean and that by the Prebendaries seems to have its roots in a dispute between the two parties in the early C18. Mention is made by Bishop Kennet of a dispute between them over the right to a considerable tract of ground which adjoins the present Deanery garden, and which was styled at different periods the king's or dean's orchard. This land had been retained by the crown following the Dissolution. Successive deans claimed that land had been granted to them by Henry VIII's charter for their exclusive use, whereas the Prebendaries insisted that it belonged to the common estate of the church. A decree issued in 1710 by the Lord Chancellor went in favour of the Prebendaries' claim but soon after this decision in chancery a lease of 40 years was granted by the Chapter for the use of the land by the deans of Rochester and was renewed at the expiration of that term. Subsequent leases complicate the understanding of the precise boundaries and names of the areas making up the land under dispute. In a lease document dated 1734 the following appears: 'The King's orchard which once belonged to the King's Palace there, ----- lying north of the Vines, south of the Dean's orchard.' A later lease, dated 1675, includes the following description of the land as ‘ ½ acre 14 perches orchard lying north west of the Dean's orchard, south east of the Deanery and south west of the houses built on the orchard in Rochester.' In a lease dated 1622 it is referred to as the Cathedral orchard. Today the term King's Orchard refers to the whole area of land, perhaps arising from a land lease dated 1840 stating that 'the partition wall between two pieces of land was either allowed to rot and to fall down or was at some time removed and the whole piece of land came in time to be known as the Dean's orchard' (the fence is evident on the OS map of 1867; MALSC: Drc. Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral 1541, 1994/DRc. Ele)

Successive deans of Rochester, from the early C18, maintained sole use of the orchard as part of the Deanery's house and land until the house ceased use as a Deanery; it became Rochester Theological College in 1959, remaining so until 1970. Since then, the upper floors have been used for cathedral work, with the ground floor opened as public tea rooms. Parts of its land were regularly leased out to reverend gentlemen and maps attached to lease documents provide some understanding of the changes in the land management. One of these changes was the creation of what today is known as the Deanery garden, from land taken out of the King's Orchard. The most famous Dean was Samuel Hole, who held the post of Dean of Rochester from 1887 to 1904. On his arrival Dean Hole wrote to a friend 'there is a spacious garden with no signs of horticulture' although the OS 1st edition of 1866 shows that a garden did already exist which he presumably adapted. Hole was a keen rose-grower and came to general notice as promoter and honorary secretary of the first national rose show. He wrote many books on rose growing but the only direct references to his garden at Rochester are in his letters, including his last one containing a list of his 135 roses in the Deanery garden. Gertrude Jekyll describes the planting in Hole's garden in some detail in her 1904 book Some English Gardens and another letter refers to opinions by the well-known author and gardener William Robinson. Paintings of Hole's garden make it possible to establish some idea of its location and layout; some planting survived until the 1920s.

Other changes to the King's Orchard and Deanery Garden land occurred up to the present day, mainly comprising further building: in 1760 a house was built on part of the vineyard (on land now known as ‘The Vines') but with its garden occupying part of the King's or Dean's Orchard (Livett's map of 1894). It was leased by the Dean and chapter, the house later being transferred to the 5th prebend (also provost of Oriel College Oxford) to be converted into a prebendal house known as Oriel House (now the headmaster's house of the King's School). In 1820 a new house for the second prebendary was built on part of the King's Orchard (Mackean House). This now is also a part of King's School. In the 1960s a new school hall for King's School was built on land between Oriel House and Mackean House on land denoted as Dr Marsham's garden on the D A March map of 1801 and the grange yard in Tim Tatton Brown's map of the Priory land.

In the C20, the Deanery garden was used as allotments during WW1 (pers com.). Four houses were built on the King's Orchard in the 1960s: The Deanery, the Archdeaconry, and two Prebendal houses. In the 1980s, Easter Garth was built for Canon Armson on the site of Dean Hole's coach house immediately south-west of the Deanery. All garden areas remain within the ownership of the Cathedral.


An informally-planted garden of grass, trees (including former orchard trees) and shrubberies, the area known as the Old Deanery Garden and King's Orchard is now (2014) partly in use as the garden of the Cathedral tea rooms. The whole garden area lies within the Cathedral precincts and was occupied, post Dissolution, by the Deans of the Cathedral, the most well-known of whom, Dean Hole, cultivated and wrote extensively about a garden he created at the turn of the C20. Although well-documented, nothing of Hole's layout or planting now (2014) survives.


A square, grassed, publicly-accessible open space with a few trees and C20 plantings, partially enclosed by the Cathedral and surviving cloister walls, its square form surviving from its original layout and function as the cloister garden of the C12 monastic Priory but with the additional role as a C21 memorial garden commemorating local people through donated rose bushes.


Medieval (1066 to 1540)

Key Information





Principal Building

Religious Ritual And Funerary


Medieval (1066 to 1540)


Part: standing remains

Open to the public




  • Kent Gardens Trust

  • Barbara Piper and Janet Mayfield