Lower East Hall

THE GARDEN AT LINCOLN MEDIEVAL BISHOPS’ PALACE is a contemporary yet peaceful space elevated high above Lincoln city where you feel that you are soaring above the landscape along with the peregrine falcons who have nested nearby. Lincoln Medieval Bishop’s Palace is the only English Heritage property to have a vineyard, which is run with help from the local community.


You arrive in the garden through the labyrinth of the ruined Bishops’ Palace, emerging from the darkness of a cold stone room with a vaulted ceiling, down a flight of ancient steps, and then through a gap in the thick Medieval wall into the light. Because it’s on a south-facing slope you first see the garden from above.

At the back of the terrace is a buttressed Roman wall which, in summer, is self-seeded with red Valerian ( Centranthus ruber) – highly appropriate as this tough, opportunistic plant gets its name from an ancient Roman family, the Valerii.

From the viewing platform your eye immediately picks out nine tightly clipped hornbeam ( Carpinus betulus) piercing the air like the spires of the Cathedral. Narrow weathered brick paths at precise geometric angles running between the trees echo the intricacy of the ribs supporting the Cathedral’s ceiling. Each tree is sunk into a circlet of polished stainless steel, like the architectural bosses where the ribs intersect.

If this sounds overly complicated it’s not. You’re reminded of the elegant workmanship of medieval craftsmen, such as the silversmiths who made the chalices and communion plates and the stonemasons who sent ambitiously tall towers into the air.

On descending the viewing platform onto the grass below it feels as if you are in an outdoor church. Clipped yews with recesses for benches look like the stalls of the cathedral choir. Other echoes of medieval Christianity are carefully woven into the garden.

One of the shining steel disks encircling the hornbeam has a labyrinth etched into it, a reference to one of the earliest Christian symbols of man’s search for God. Another disk has curling vine leaves upon it pointing both backwards to the earliest inhabitants of Lincoln, the Romans who brought vines from Italy, and also forwards to the vineyard planted on the lower terrace. The vines were a gift from the city’s twin town in Germany, Neustadt-an-der-Weinstrasse in 1972.

Although this garden is mainly an elegant ‘green thought in a green shade’ the restrained planting around the edge alludes to the fact that it was once a working garden. Purple lavender with its medicinal qualities, tall spires of Acanthus – a plant that recurs again and again in medieval sculpture and wood carving – and the striking blood red climbing Rosa ‘Guinee’ enliven this subtle, restful space without overpowering it.


Lincoln Medieval Bishop’s Palace has the only official Vineyard within all English Heritage properties and Lincoln city. The vines were donated by Naustradt in Germany and the three varieties – Ortega, Muller Thurgau and Madelaine Sullvaina – are all white grape from the north side of the Rhine. When it was first planted in 1972 it was the most northerly vineyard in Britain, and it is now one of three.

‘The Vineyard Community Project’, put together early 2013 to help with the care of the vineyard, now involves a volunteer group from the local community, alongside a partnership with a local vineyard to help with the harvesting and the production of wine at the end of the season. The vineyard is an historical asset which has now been tamed into a functioning vineyard. This forgotten gem has become a flourishing natural environment that has not only encouraged the wildlife of the area to stop by, but also many new visitors.

18 Comments CherryPie on May 13th 2015

18 Responses to “A Quiet Place for Reflection”

  1. Lovely photo’s. We went to Lincoln years ago. Hope we get to go back there. Bear hugs!

  2. ....peter:) says:

    i love the first image of the medieval arch leading to the door… it is truly a place for meditation and prayer… i like to see that the vineyard that helps to support the Bishops’ Palace… but i am not so keen on the on the garden where the trees all have discs around the trunk and seem to be placed in a geometric pattern… but that is my just own opinion….peter:)

    • CherryPie says:

      It was a lovely quite place for contemplation :-)

      The garden when I visited didn’t look much like what I think of as a garden. I would like to go back and visit in the summer to see if there is some colour around the edges.

  3. Amfortas says:

    The first picture is a timely reminder to do the annual full sweep out of the Tavern Cellars. :)

  4. Astrid says:

    What a great place to visit. I had a little hope it was not far away from Bath… I would love to visit this place. It looks fabulous and so much to see. I also like the pictures of the post before this one. Did you buy a bottle of wine or is all the wine reserved to the bishop ;) ??

    • CherryPie says:

      Maybe on your next visit you will be able to see Lincoln :-) There was no wine on offer, which was probably just as well at that time in the morning.

  5. lisl says:

    I like the idea of the vineyard there, Cherie

  6. Alan says:

    I’ve never been to this part of the country. I’m always fascinated by the skill of the builders to build such places with the limited aids that had at the time.

  7. Oh did you try their wine? :)

  8. Oh Cherie this is incredible…I immediately connected here and how appropriate is this place for reconnecting as I say in my post today….reflection and peaceful meditation come to mind here in these pictures!

    • CherryPie says:

      It was lovely and quiet when we visited. If I had more time I would have loved to sit and look out over Lincoln for a while :-)