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St Mary-at-Lambeth Churchyard and The Garden Museum Lambeth


St Mary-at-Lambeth Church dates from 1377 and was restored in the 1850s, but by 1971 the church was redundant and threatened with demolition, its churchyard unkempt. In 1976 the Tradescant Trust was formed and campaigned to save church and churchyard for conversion into a museum and conference centre for garden history. The site has particular importance for garden history since 3 generations of the Tradescant family of plant collectors are buried here. By February 1979 sufficient funds were raised and restoration began, the former churchyard behind the church laid out as a C17th style knot garden. The Museum of Garden History, now renamed the Garden Museum, was officially opened in 1983 by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Among the monuments in the garden is that of the Tradescant family of 1662, and also that of Admiral William Bligh of 'The Bounty', erected in 1817. A wild garden was created in 2007 in the former churchyard in front of St Mary's.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Lambeth Parish Church

Site location:
Lambeth Palace Road

SE1 7LB ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Churchyard; Institutional Grounds

Tradescant Garden: 1979

1979: Lady Salisbury

Listed structures:
LBII*: St Mary's Church, Tradescant sarcophagus, Bligh sarcophagus. LBII: walls, railings, gates & gatepiers to south & west of church LBII*: St Mary's Church


Site ownership:
The Tradescant Trust

Site management:
The Tradescant Trust

Open to public?

Opening times:
Front churchyard unrestricted. Museum open daily 10.30am-5pm (earlier closing in winter and closed mid-Dec to early Feb)
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 12 times, most recently in 2015.

Special conditions:
Admission charge Garden Museum permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, garden (2011: £6 adults/£5 senior citizens, £3 students; under 16s free

Museum, café, shop, toilets. Plant sales

Temporary exhibitions, lectures, workshops

Public transport:
Rail: Waterloo. Tube: Waterloo (Northern, Waterloo and City, Jubilee, Bakerloo); Lambeth North (Northern) then bus, Lambeth North (Bakerloo). Bus: 3, 77, 344, 507

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Conservation Area name:
Lambeth Palace

Tree Preservation Order:

Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II with Lambeth Palace (?

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:

Other LA designation:

St Mary-at-Lambeth Churchyard and The Garden Museum

Photo: Janne Watson

Click photo to enlarge.


Fuller information

St Mary's Church dates from 1377 and was restored by Philip Hardwick in the 1850s. The church and its churchyard is a most important site from the point of view of garden history, since three generations of Tradescants are buried in it. John Tradescant the elder (c.1570-1638) was gardener to the first Earl of Salisbury at Hatfield House, Lord Wotton, the Duke of Buckingham and Charles I and Henrietta Maria. He travelled widely including to Russian, North Africa and North America and introduced many plants to England. His son John Tradescant the Younger (1608-1662) became a freeman of the Gardeners' Company and succeeded his father as royal gardener at Oaklands. He made 3 visits to Virginia and introduced many American plants to England, including Swamp Cypress and Tulip Tree. Both are buried in St Mary's Churchyard, the Tradescant sarcophagus erected in 1662. This is in hard sandstone and has high relief carvings on all sides depicting classical and Egyptian ruins, with trees at the corners and other flora and fauna and a mythical hydra at one end. The slab on the lid dates from 1853 and records the tomb's repair in 1773 and its restoration in 1853, with a poem in honour of the two Tradescants. The Tradescants established a physic garden in South Lambeth and their collections were subsequently taken over by Elias Ashmole and eventually went to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Adjacent to the Tradescant tomb is the Coade stone sarcophagus of Admiral William Bligh, erected in 1817. As Captain of 'The Bounty', Bligh brought the breadfruit tree from the Marquesas to the West Indies. Also in the churchyard is the tomb of the Sealy family, famous for Coade stone.

By 1971 the church was redundant and threatened with demolition, and churchyard unkempt. OS1934 map showed it to be simply laid out. In 1976 the Tradescant Trust was formed and began to campaign to save the church and churchyard and turn it into a museum and conference centre for garden history. By February 1979 sufficient funds had been raised and restoration of the gardens began which opened in the early 1980s. The gardens today are surrounded by mature plane trees and the area to the east of the church has been laid out by Lady Salisbury, owner of Hatfield House, as a C17th parterre garden surrounded by clipped box hedges with a topiary spiral in the centre of old golden holly, and planted with columbines, old fashioned roses, foxgloves and other herbaceous plants, herbs and bulbs which were available in the Tradescants' day. The garden has other examples of topiary and among the numerous plants is a mature strawberry tree, and a large climbing musk rose reputedly the largest in the country. Old brick paths, seats and gravestones. The Tradescant and Bligh tombs have been restored. The Museum has a collection of historic tools and artefacts, and displays about the history of gardening. Regular programme of artists' installations take place in the museum and garden.

Sources consulted:

Candidate for Register: Survey of London 'Parish of St Mary Lambeth' Vol XXVI, London 1956; R Nicholson 'A Museum of Garden History', Period Homes Vol 4, no 2 pp.41-45; Arabella Lennox-Boyd, 'Private Gardens of London', London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990; Tommaso del Buono, 'Beats the M25', Space/The Guardian 8 June 2000; Ian Yarham, Michael Waite, Andrew Simpson, Niall Machin, 'Nature Conservation in Lambeth', Ecology Handbook 26 (London Ecology Unit), 1994

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