A secret sanctuary since 1224

Discover the history of the gardens and how we’re using the past to inform our future.

  • Wild wall flowers growing from historic wall
    Image credit: Sarah D. Andrews
The rear of the Eastbridge Hospital with River Stour flowing underneath
Image credit: Sarah D. Andrews


Already a garden for Eastbridge Hospital in the 13th Century, the land was given over in trust for use by the first Franciscan community who arrived in 1224 from Italy. Directly sent by St Francis of Assisi to administer to the sick and the poor, the Franciscans had sworn a vow of extreme poverty in order to emulate the life of Jesus Christ. They used the land gifted to them to create humble dwellings, a chapel and practical garden filled with Mediterranean herbs and medicinal plants to support their ministry.

Read more about our history

Vintage garden cast iron lawn roller with the Franciscan Gardens in the background
Image credit: Geraldine Deeney


Our journey first began in 2000 when we first embarked on the enormous challenge to restore the original Franciscan Friary garden from a derelict site. Now open for the first time as a heritage site, we will continue to develop and grow the garden as the planting matures, reinvesting the income our small charity generates. A haven away from the bustle of Canterbury’s busy streets, we hope to be a treasured site for visitors and the local community to pause in nature, reflect on the simple joys of life and discover our fascinating history.

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