Museum of Garden History

Museum of Garden History

The Museum of Garden History is based in the deconsecrated parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth adjacent to Lambeth Palace on the south bank of the River Thames in London, located on Lambeth Road. The church originally housed the 15th and 16th century tombs of many members of the Duke of Norfolk Howard dynasty, including now-lost memorial brasses to Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk (died 1524), his wife Agnes Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk (died 1545) and is also the burialplace of Queen Anne Boleyn's mother Elizabeth Boleyn, formerly Howard.

St Mary's, which was largely a Victorian reconstruction, was deconsecrated in 1972 and was scheduled to be demolished. In 1976 John and Rosemary Nicholson traced the tomb of the two 17th century royal gardeners and plant hunters John Tradescant father and son to the churchyard, and were inspired to create the Museum of Garden History. It was the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of gardening. It is an independent charity and does not receive government funding.

The museum's main gallery is the main body of the church. The collection comprises three main categories: tools, ephemera and a library. The tool collection includes items purchased at auction and donations from individuals and horitcultural companies. The ephemera includeds items such as prints, photographs, bills, catalogues and brochures, and gives an insight into the social history of gardening as well as the practical aspects of the subject. The library of historical and contemporary books is accessible to anyone who pays the subscription to join the "friends of the museum". The museum covers the whole range of gardening, from royal gardens to allotments.

In the early 1980s, a 17th century style knot garden planted with authentic plants of the period was created in the churchyard. In its 25th anniversary year in 2002 the museum launched a campaign to raise at least £600,000 to pay for a general overhaul of its facilities.

Tomb of the Tradescants

Five members of the Tradescant family are buried here: John the Elder; John the Younger with his two wives Jane and Hester, and his son, also called John, who died aged 19. The original 17th century design for the tomb is in the Pepys Library, Oxford, and an image of it may also be found at the National Portrait Gallery.

The present tomb is the third on the site of the Tradescant grave and replicates the originalo design. It was made by White of Vauxhall Bridge Road in 1853 with stone from Darnley Dale in Yorkshire.

On the east side of the tomb is carved the family arms, on the west side a skull and a seven-headed hydra, on the south side broken columns, Corinthian capitals, a pyramid and ruins, and on the north side shells, a crocodile, and a view of some Egyptian buildings.

The epitaph on the top of the tomb was written by Tradescant's friend, John Aubrey (spelling modernised):

:Know, stranger, ere thou pass, beneath this stone:Lie John Tradescant, grandsire, father, son:The last dy'd in his spring, the other two,:Liv'd till they had travelled Orb and Nature through,:As by their choice Collections may appear,:Of what is rare in land, in sea, in air,:Whilst they (as Homer's Iliad in a nut):A world of wonders in one closet shut,:These famous Antiquarians that had been:Both Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen,:Transplanted now themselves, sleep here & when:Angels shall with their trumpets waken men,:And fire shall purge the world, these three shall rise:And change this Garden then for Paradise.

Local Lambeth legend states that if the tomb is danced around twelve times as Big Ben strikes midnight a ghost appears.

Also buried in the churchyard is William Bligh, captain of the Bounty.

Tools in museum exhibit

External links

* [ Official website]
* [ American Garden Museum] —- a working archive that celebrates American gardens and their gardeners
* [ Events at the Museum of Garden History]
* [ Obituary of Rosemary Nicholson, foundress of the Museum, 26/11/2004, "Telegraph"]
* [ Church of St Mary, Lambeth entry at the Survey of London]

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