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Monday, 6 May 2013

Chilling with the Tradescants at the Garden Museum

Spring has finally sprung here in London and all signs point to the Garden Museum in Lambeth as the place to be. We first noticed the Garden Museum when it was named one of the world's best museum cafes by Gourmet Magazine last year. Then a few days ago a non-museum friend of mine remarked over drinks that she had found her dream wedding venue (note: this friend is not actually getting married). When I asked her where, she enthused about the Garden Museum's stunning architecture and garden which she had recently booked for a corporate event. Clearly everyone needs to get down to Lambeth ASAP.

Their cakes are famous. Actually.
But what will you find when you arrive? It's worth mentioning that the Garden Museum is very small. It is situated inside the St-Mary-at-Lambeth Church which has been re-purposed with a minimalist chic interior. The whole idea for the museum came about back in the 1970s when the church was just a crumbing ruin. It wasn't until someone noticed the exotic looking tomb in the courtyard that everyone remembered, oh yeah aren't the Tradescants buried there?

Crocodile tomb stone...yes. 
The Tradescants you say? Well because you are museum geeks there is probably a faint bell ringing somewhere in your mind saying words like 'Ark' and 'Ashmolean'. Yes the father and son team of John (Elder and Younger) Tradescant, did indeed travel the world in the 17th century bringing back with them their collection of natural curiosities known as the 'Ark'. This collection was shown to the public at their home in Lambeth, effectively becoming the first museum in Britain. It later formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. That's some museology knowledge for you.

The Knot Garden
They seem like pretty important guys, but what do they have to do with gardening? Apparently John the Elder was the first famous British gardener who was gardener to King James the 1st. They travelled the world looking for new plants to bring back to England. If you head out to the museum's garden you can see some of the varieties first introduced by this pioneering duo.

In the scheme of things, the Garden Museum is a very young museum. It has a collection of about 5,000 objects, only a few of which can be displayed in the small upstairs permanent gallery. I particularly enjoyed the case dedicated to garden gnomes.

I don't mean for this to sound superficial, but the cafe and the gift shop are actually really really good. Seriously. If you want a great day out with your mom, take her here. The cakes are gorgeous and everything in the shop is adorable. Even if you don't really like gardening you can't say no to a well designed mug or tote bag.

Here is what we suggest you do: on a sunny morning take the tube to Westminster. Walk down the Embankment and across Lambeth Bridge. You will then immediately need to take a break in the cafe. Then wander in the garden in the sunshine, say hey to the Tradescants. Give the exhibits a quick wander then hit the giftshop. Spring time happiness made to order.

The Garden Museum is open everyday (except the first Monday of the month). There is an admission charge, but its worth it to support them!

1 comment:

  1. I love this place, although I've not yet managed to make the museum. Paid a visit to the free bits a few lunchtimes ago: