|Drapers' Hall Garden||City of London|
The Drapers' Company gardens were once extensive. Thomas Cromwell had acquired land here from the 1530s, and probably had walks, arbours, knot and herb gardens. After his fall from grace, the Drapers' Company acquired his property in 1543, converting his mansion as Drapers' Hall and creating a Great Garden for its members. In the early C17th mulberry trees were planted probably following the example of James I. The Hall burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666 and the garden was restored in the early 1670s. Popular in the C17th and C18th, the garden was open to the 'genteel public' in the C19th but by the 1870s much of the original gardens had disappeared as building accelerated in the City. The Drapers' Company let part of the land for houses and a new road, and the garden that remains was formerly the Upper Garden, the north end of which also known as the Lower Garden. The layout is largely that of 1928 with paving, formal raised rose beds, a fountain and trees including black mulberry trees and a Japanese mulberry.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2004
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Drapers' Hall Garden, June 2003. Photo: S Williams
Click photo to enlarge.
The Drapers' Company gardens were once extensive, and covering a larger site near the present National Westminster Bank in Throgmorton Street, but gradually diminished in size from the C16th onwards when the Drapers' Company acquired the site, the current garden a fraction of the size. The Drapers' Company acquired the plot of land here in the 1540s. The existence of gardens in the area is referred to from the early C14th and the Austin Friars had an orchard and gardens, part of which land was acquired by Thomas Cromwell who had acquired various plots of land from the 1530s, his gardens presumably well laid out with walks, arbours, knot and herb gardens. After his fall from grace, in 1543 the Drapers' Company acquired Cromwell's property from Henry VIII, converting Cromwell's mansion to become Drapers' Hall. In 1543/4 the Company created its Great Garden of 1.5 acres under the supervision of Sir Thomas Dykons, restocking with numerous plants associated with knot gardens, as well as laying out bowling alleys, a sundial, a popinjay and other amenities for its members. There are records of rose bushes, gooseberry trees, gourds, strawberries and herbs growing here. A professional gardener, Robert Ratford, was appointed in 1548 and appears to have been more conscientious than his successor whose neglect of the garden led to complaints in 1606. After this responsibility became that of the Clerk to the Company and a committee appointed 'for the more making or altering of ye garden and for the putting of trees therein and for orders to be set down for the better keeping thereof'. The planting of mulberry trees took place soon after this probably following the example of James I who planted a mulberry orchard outside St James's Park to encourage the silk industry in England. There was said to have been a mulberry orchard which extended from Drapers' Gardens to London Wall although Company records do not provide evidence of this.
In the late C16th the Company added to the Great Garden with a number of summer-houses, a marble fountain, maze, and planted 100 damask rose bushes and 31 fruit trees. An early C17th plan shows the maze in the Great Garden as one of six rectangular beds, the others being knot beds. At that time there was also an Upper Garden, to the east of which was a smaller garden. By the mid C17th the Great Garden was somewhat neglected, but restoration work was carried out in the early 1660s. The garden acted as a firebreak during the Great Fire of London of 1666 although the Drapers' Hall itself burnt down, but the Beadle's Garden House (which existed until 1888) and properties to the north were saved including London Wall and the Carpenters' Hall. In the aftermath of the fire and building of a new Hall the garden essentially became a builder's yard until it was restored in the early 1670s.
The Garden was popular in the C17th and C18th, indeed there was trouble excluding undesirable visitors. Major improvements were undertaken in 1739-40 by Thomas Binckes, including formal planting, walks laid out surrounding an inner railed garden as well as new iron gates and summer houses. A central fountain is shown in Rocque's map of 1746, by which time the Great Garden is surrounded by building. In the C19th the Garden was open daily 'for the recreation of genteel company' apart from Sundays and rainy days and among those who enjoyed it was the young Thomas Babington Macaulay, later Lord Macaulay, the historian, who recalls playing here. By 1842, the Great Garden had a centrepiece, tree and shrub borders but by the end of the C19th much of the original gardens had disappeared.
As building in the City accelerated, the Drapers' decided upon the commercial proposition of letting part of the garden land for building, which included construction of a new roadway of Throgmorton Avenue in 1874 through the east part of the garden. The site of the original Great Garden is recorded only as a street name, Drapers' Gardens, and as a hard space surrounding part of the National Westminster Bank in Throgmorton Street.
The garden that remains was formerly the Upper Garden, the north end of which was also known as the Lower Garden. The Upper Garden was an enclosed walled garden separated from the Great Garden which in the early C17th was let to a Mr Woollistone and had two grass plots. After the Great Fire it was also used for storing building materials but when the Hall was rebuilt trees were planted; a central fountain existed by 1819 and after the demise of the Great Garden it was deemed more precious. The Company's gardener William Holmes planted new trees and shrubs and new wall and railings were completed by 1874. It was redesigned by the Company's surveyor Heaton Comyn in 1928 with York paving, roses in raised beds and a new fountain. The lead statue of a boy in the centre of the pond was presented by the Clerk, Ernest Pooley. This layout is essentially that which remains today. It is a narrow garden, located along the lower part of Throgmorton Street between Austin Friars and Drapers Hall.
The new boundary railings and gates were designed by Stephen E Dykes Bower, surveyor to Westminster Abbey and erected in 1972, the design for his lunette in the garden's west wall based on an C18th fanlight from Drapers' Hall. Within the garden are formal raised beds, a fountain and trees include four black mulberry trees and a Japanese mulberry, hence continuing the long tradition of growing mulberries here; two of these have been planted by members of the Royal Family: Queen Elizabeth II in 1955 and Prince Charles in 1971.
Drapers Company publication (n.d.), Chapter 4: 'Drapers' Gardens'; B Plummer and D Shewan, 'City Gardens', London, 1992; F E Cleary, 'The Flowering City', The City Press, 1969; Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.)