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Cannington Priory

Visited May 2019

Location Cannington, nr. Bridgwater, Somerset
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Roadside
Facilities Toilets, Cafe, Gift Shop


The walled gardens of Cannington College have been created within the remains of Cannington Priory, founded in the 12th century by the de Courcy family of Stogursey Castle . The Benedictine nunnery took in the daughters of the well-to-do of Somerset.






The priory did not always have a good reputation, and in the early 14th century there was an inquiry into the conduct of the nuns, amidst rumours of secret tunnels used by the nuns to meet local monks. Recently an entrance to what looks like a tunnel has been found at Cannington so there may well be more to the story than just speculation. 


By 1536 the Priory had been dissolved and the land passed down various landowners. In 1837 the site was once again a nunnery, this time to an order of Benedictine nuns who were escaping persecution in France. They stayed for about thirty years, then the site was an industrial school for boys which eventually moved to Prior Park in Bath- built originally by Ralph Allen who also built Bath's Sham Castle.





Eventually the grounds were used to house Cannington College, which offered land-based courses, including gardening (Mum did an organic gardening course through Cannington College back in the early 2000s) After a merger with Bridgwater College the former priory site was redeveloped as show gardens of the college, which are now open to the public. The electricity firm EDF lease the Elizabethan house that was built on the priory site, known as Cannington Court, and use it as a training centre.


There is not much of the original ecclesiastical building left today, mainly the garden walls which were once the Priory walls. Cannington gardens provide a continuation of the use of this historic site which was formally the Priory gardens. There is an area in the gardens called the Bishop's Garden, which contains plants mentioned in the Bible. This is also the site of the grave of Bishop Peter Collingridge, who died in 1829. He was originally buried here but was later moved to Downside Abbey, so the tomb stone is now a memorial to him. Some of the nuns were also buried in this area.







The gardens are a delight to visit, they have a variety of different areas including the Blue Garden , the Australasian Garden, a wild flower meadow and formal lawn. There is also a large glass house containing tropical plants and cacti.


The gardens are child friendly, with some quirky displays of interest to children, such as the large wicker sea monster in the middle of the lawn. On the day we went there was a children's trail, which involved spotting lots of well known children's characters, as well as a teddy placed in a tree, which you can see in one of the photos above. There is a nice tea room and shop, both of which are very reasonably priced.





More info:  The Walled Gardens of Cannington

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