The Garden Museum was created in 1977 in order to rescue from demolition the then abandoned church of St Mary’s at Lambeth, a church which now is restored and renewed: restored in the outer and inner structure of the church, and renewed as exhibition spaces on all matters related to the history of gardening, and to the history of the Tradescant family, father and son both named John, in turn each appointed Royal Gardener to the Stuarts and whose family tomb is within the grounds, fittingly in a garden that reflects their world-wide plant collecting.
The Tradescant family tomb though is overshadowed by that of William Bligh, the hero/villain of the Mutiny on the Bounty.
The visitor must tread over centuries-old gravestones set in the floor, and past memorials to some very late indeed Archbishops of Canterbury: St Mary-at-Lambeth was a popular resting place, right next door to Lambeth Palace.
The Museum has a permanent exhibition of the history of gardening in all aspects from grand estates to allotmenteering, from Gertrude Jekyll to Alan Titchmarsh. Art is of interest generally here, with currently a showing of Lucian Freud’s paintings of plants. The Museum has an archive/study room on garden design: visits for research are by appointment.
The museum has educational programmes: ‘The History of the Christmas Pudding’ is coming soon! With added truffles.
The church’s medieval tower has 131 steps, and the breathless visitor is rewarded with a panorama of the Thames, of the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and all that. More history, ancient and modern.
The Garden Museum makes for an unusual and entertaining outing. We thoroughly enjoyed it and will go again – and also visit the Florence Nightingale Garden nearby. For more information, check the Garden Museum website.