|Allen Hall Seminary Garden||Kensington & Chelsea|
Allen Hall Seminary Garden is one of the largest private gardens in Chelsea, its history dating back to 1524 when Sir Thomas More purchased land in Chelsea and Kensington for his Great House. Although his house is long gone, one of the mulberry trees he planted survives in the Seminary Garden. His gardens had a rich variety of flowering shrubs, herbs and trees, an orchard and kitchen gardens. The current building is a former C19th convent and since 1975 has been the Seminary of the RC Archdiocese of Westminster. A central courtyard garden has a fountain and shrubs and the main garden has lawn surrounded by roses, evergreen and flowering shrubs and trees; a path leads to a secluded walled garden beyond which is More's mulberry tree, and finally an area planted in c.2004 as the St Thomas More Mulberry Walk.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2007
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One of the largest private gardens in Chelsea, its history dates back to 1524 when Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More purchased 27 acres of land in Chelsea for £30 and 7.5 acres in Kensington for £20, borrowing money from the King to build his 'Great House', which was completed by 1525. He took a keen interest in his estate and planted mulberry trees, especially imported for their Latin name, 'morus', and although his house is long gone one of his original mulberry trees survives in the Seminary Garden. At that time Chelsea was a small village known for its clean, healthy air. More built a special raised area in his garden from which to better appreciate the view of St Paul's and the city of London to the east. His great nephew, Father Ellis Heywood described More's house and garden 'a beautiful and commodious residence . . . After dinner, one descends about two stones' throw into the garden, walks on a little lawn in the middle, then up a green hillock, where one halts to look around. It is an enchanting spot, as well from the convenience of the situation - from one side almost all the noble city of London being visible, and from the other the lovely Thames, being crowned with lovely flowers, and the sprays of the fruit trees so admirably spaced and interwoven, that looking at them they appear like a veritable piece of living tapestry made by nature herself.'
More had a rich variety of flowering shrubs, herbs and trees in his gardens, an orchard with apple, pear and plum trees as well as cottage gardens for vegetables and other food for his extensive household. In the grounds of the Great House More built a library and private chapel, known as The New Building. It was from his Chelsea Great House on 17 April 1534 that he was sent for trial, imprisonment and later execution on 6 July 1535, after his resignation as Chancellor in 1532 following Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. More was canonised on 19 May 1935.
The current building is a former convent built by French nuns in the C19th and C20th, the Sisters of the Adoration Reparatrice. Since 1975 it has been used by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster as its Seminary. Founded in northern France in 1568, the Seminary moved to England in 1793, at Ware in Hertfordshire where it remained until moving to Chelsea. The central courtyard garden has a fountain and shrubs. The main garden has lawn surrounded by roses, evergreen and flowering shrubs and trees, and a path leads to a secluded walled garden known as the Rector's Camellia Garden. Beyond this is Thomas More's mulberry tree, and finally an area planted in c.2004 as the St Thomas More Mulberry Walk, with an avenue of young mulberries.
OGSW booklet 2007; www.allenhall.org.uk; Saint Thomas More, an introduction for visitors to Allen Hall Seminary (nd)