Record year for Norwich’s hidden gardens despite legal wrangle

Plantation Gardens in Norwich. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Plantation Gardens in Norwich. Photo: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A Victorian garden in the heart of Norwich has enjoyed a record year, with visitor numbers and income jumping.

Plantation Gardens in Norwich. Byline: Sonya Duncan

Plantation Gardens in Norwich. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Charitable accounts for the Plantation Gardens Preservation Trust for 2017, published last month, show a record year for the popular gardens in the city centre.

The site, three acres of restored Victorian town garden, saw £16,764 collected through its honesty box - a key way of judging footfall - compared to £15,974 in 2016.

Additional entry fees rose by 32pc to £3,361, with the trust recording a surplus of £10,822 for the year, compared to a deficit of £17,592 the previous year.

It came despite a bumpy start to 2017, when access to the gardens was closed by Tony Burlingham, owner of a nearby hotel, which has since been sold, after sinkholes opened nearby.

It saw the gardens, on Earlham Road, closed for a month and the trust forced to shell out on legal fees to challenge the closure. The accounts show they spent £4,115 on professional fees, compared to £2,372 the year before.

But chairman Roger Conah said the charity had 'coped quite easily' with the additional cost.

MORE: A nostalgic stroll through Norwich's plantation garden

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He said it had been a successful year for the garden, with income from the honesty box continuing to 'rise steadily' in recent years.

He said events held at the gardens, including an outdoor cinema in summer, had contributed to its growth.

'The events we are running, such as jazz picnics, are seeing plenty of people attend,' he said, 'and then return to see the gardens again.'

He described the gardens as a 'little haven in the city centre'.

'It's so different,' he said. 'Inside the garden it's almost totally peaceful. There's no effect from the traffic or city noise. It's so quiet and very, very attractive.'

The accounts show an insight into the costs of running the garden, with the total rising from £20,971 in 2016 to £22,429 this year.

It includes more than £7,500 on gardening, £3,000 on garden facilities and just over £2,800 on electricity and water.

Security cost £3,730, while £893 was spent on machinery.

Its main sources of income are its honesty box, events, membership subscriptions and Sunday tea sales.

The gardens are located in a former chalk mine in Norwich, and were laid out between 1857 and the 1890s by Henry Trevor, a Norwich shopkeeper.