How doth the Little Crocodile...
The Tradescants got passing mentions in our previous post on the Garden Museum, which didn't do their green fingered, horticultural adventurous spirits justice at all. They are, in fact, the reason the Garden Museum found a home in Lambeth. The rediscovery of the tomb of these 17th century plant hunters in the churchyard of St Mary-at-Lambeth led John and Rosemary Nicholson to save the church from demolition and found the Museum of Garden History in 1977.
The Tradescants were gardeners to royalty and collectors of curiosities. John Tradescant the Elder travelled Europe in the early 1600s in the service of Robert Cecil and began bringing back plants, trees and "all things strange and rare" starting an exotic collection that would be enhanced by his equally adventurous son, who even reached America. The collection amassed in the Tradescant house in South Lambeth and, at the neighbourly suggestion of one Elias Ashmole, was documented in the Tradescantium of 1656 - the first published museum catalogue. Ashmole, rather conveniently, ended up with the collection in his own treasure chest, the Ashmolean in Oxford, after their deaths.
But the Tradescants are appropriately commemorated in this Elysian idyll in Lambeth. The Victorian sandstone tomb, the third to sit on the site in the Knot Garden, is picaresquely carved with broiling trees, the seven headed Hydra perched over a grim skull, the flamboyant family coat of arms, a pyramid, broken columns, shells and one cheekily lurking crocodile. Here are several worlds captured in stone, reflecting how, as the epitaph describes, they, "A world of wonders in one closet shut".
Don't miss the Riot of Roses at the Garden Museum, 7, 8 & 9 May,