Master's Garden, The Hospital of St Cross

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HCC Site ID: 1604 Parish: Winchester
Designations: CA Area: Small
Access: Public Access – see link below Ownership: The Hospital of St Cross

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Location and Site

The ancient Hospital of St Cross lies on the St Cross Road, a mile from Winchester City Centre. The Master’s Garden is situated within the complex of the Hospital, which stands in the water meadows below St Catherine’s Hill

Historic and Current description

St Cross Hospital was founded by Henri de Blois,  and the building of the historic Hospital commenced in 1158. Its fortunes waxed and waned over the centuries. A conjectural layout of the Hospital in 1401, based on a contemporary survey does not note any garden where the present Master’s Garden lies, though an 18th century aerial view of the Hospital by William Cave notes a garden area in the same area. Though there is little written about how and when a garden originated, it is known that  water taken from the nearby Mill Strea via a masonry-lined watercourse known as the Lockborne, was brought into the precinct by Cardinal Beaufort in the early 15th century.  The connection was later cut off from the Lockborne but a detailed map of the Hospital, dated 1854, shows a large, rectangular pond where the current area of water is today.

The Master’s Garden is reached after you have have come through the 15th century Beaufort Arch at the entrance to the Hospital, then turn left via a second arch. You are met in high summer by a sweep of grass beyond which lies the large rectangular stretch of water, covered with water-lilies and surrounded by herbaceous borders shimmering with the rich colours of summer planting. A feeling of intense peace pervades, with the surrounding graceful, large trees.To the left as you enter the garden there is a high hedge behind which is a further hidden gem of St Cross, the Compton Garden.

The Compton Garden commemorates Henry Compton, Master of St Cross from 1667-1675 who  later became Bishop of London, when its diocese included America. Bishop Compton created the garden at Fulham Palace with plants from the New World at the time when they were very newly imported into England. The present Compton Garden was created in 1986 in what had been the Master’s vegetable garden. The Vice-president of Hampshire Gardens Trust at this time, the Lady O’Neill of the Maine, was involved in the early days of the creation of the garden and her great knowledge was of valuable assistance to Victoria Wakefield who designed the planting featuring plants introduced from America into England during Bishop Compton’s lifetime. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, opened the Compton Garden on 8 July 1986. The borders are very colourful in the summer months, with shades that are particularly sensitive to the historic location and grey garden wall, and the  garden now includes a border planted to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.

A tulip tree was planted in the garden to commemorate the opening by the Queen Mother and a tree originating from the New World, a Cercis canadensis ‘Texan White’ was planted by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to commemorate her visit on 21st February 2008.

Summary & Significance

There has been a Master’s Garden at the Hospital for St Cross for several centuries, which now includes the ‘Compton Garden’. Opened in 1986, the Compton Garden was designed to reflect the introduction of American plants in the 17th century championed by Henry Compton, a former Master of St Cross.

Updated June 2020


Crook, J,2011, The Hospital of St Cross and Alshouses of Noble Poverty
Archive material, Hampshire Gardens Trust.

Compton Garden

The Pond

The pond in winter

Our address

Winchester Public Access - see website link below Click for Disclaimer & copyright
51.048004359227036, -1.3219642639160156

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