The Museum was set up in 1977 in order to rescue from demolition the abandoned ancient church of St Mary’s which is the burial place of John Tradescant (c1570 – 1638), the first great gardener and plant-hunter in British history. His magnificent and enigmatic tomb is the centrepiece of a knot garden planted with the flowers which grew in his London garden four centuries ago.
In 2008 the interior was transformed into a centre for exhibitions and events by the construction of contemporary gallery spaces. Three exhibitions each year explore the making of British gardens, and a programme of over 30 talks and interviews celebrates heroes and heroines from the forgotten plant-hunters and gardeners of the past to the designers and writers in fashion today. Visitors will also see a permanent display of paintings, tools, ephemera and historic artefacts: a glimpse into the uniquely British love affair with gardens.
The Museum’s garden was created in 1980. At its heart is a knot garden designed by the Museum’s President, The Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury (who was then also re-making the gardens at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire).
The reason for the seventeenth-century spirit of the design is that our garden also houses the tomb of the great plant-hunters, gardeners and collectors, John Tradescant the Elder (c.1570-1638) and Younger (1608-1662), the rediscovery of which originally inspired the creation of a museum of garden history in the deconsecrated, and then derelict, church of St Mary-at-Lambeth.
The knot garden and its surrounds are planted with species introduced by the Tradescants - such as the scarlet runner bean, red maple and tulip tree - and many others grown by them in their Lambeth garden. It is not only historically significant but also a lush and beautiful spot in the centre of London, cared for by a small horticultural team of staff and volunteers.
FREE GUIDED TOURS
Free guided tours given on the last Tuesday of every month at 2.00pm. Please advise the Front Desk staff that you are interested in joining the tour.
GROUP GUIDED TOURS (payment required)
Find out the history of the building, its memorials and tombs, the knot garden and the wild garden and the little stories behind many of the items in our collection.
£9 for adults and £8 for concessions (includes group entrance fee and £3 for the guided tour).
£3 per student
Groups of more than 10 people can receive entry at the discounted rate of £5 per person if booked in advance. Please contact us for availability.