Herbs have an interesting history and are closely associated with the monastic tradition. At Gloucester, it is not known where the monastic herb garden was or whether there even was one. If it existed, it was probably situated close to the Infirmary. The Cloister Garth appears to have been used for recreation.
In 1992, Rev Vivienne Faull was the Cathedral Chaplain. She wished to restore the garden in Little Cloister as a monastic herb garden. Brother Anthony of Prinknash Abbey was asked to advise and there was knowledgeable help from the Cathedral congregation.
After Vivienne moved on, help dwindled and the garden reverted to a grassy rectangle, with just a few herbs remaining. In 2000, plans were afoot to reconstruct the garden to serve a new purpose.
Rev Judith Hubbard Jones, the Cathedral Chaplain, thought that a new garden would be a visitor attraction. The Education Centre could also use it as an outdoor classroom for schools undertaking the Benedictine Tour.
The enclosed garden in front of Little Cloister House has four themed beds: Culinary, Medicinal, Dying & Fumigating, Strewing & Cosmetic.
Simple display boards inform visitors about the placement and functions of the herbs. Some sensory herbs, such as lemon balm, chives and mint, are grown in pots to enable children to pick, draw and smell them at close quarters.
Many nurseries and garden centres gave plants for the garden, plus individual gifts. Volunteers are continuing to keep the garden well tended throughout the year. Many schools have used and enjoyed the garden and it has brought another dimension to adults and children who visit the cathedral.
The herb garden is situated by the Infirmary Arches on the north side of the Cathedral. It is divided into four beds. Herbs planted include:
Feverfew (headaches, laxative)
St John's Wort
Strewing & Cosmetic
Rosemary (soothes disagreeable dreams)
Lavender (moth repellent)
Vervain (used to ward off witches)
Dying & Fumigating
Alecost (used to flavour beer)