Sitting in the shadow of the medieval might of Lambeth Palace is one of London’s most charming museums. The Garden Museum was built from the shell of the deconsecrated church of St Maryat- Lambeth, rescued from demolition in the 1970s when the 17th century tomb of John Tradescant, Britain’s first great gardener and plant-hunter, was discovered in the churchyard.
Now, following an 18 month £7.5 million re-development project, the museum is reopening. The design incorporates a new courtyard extension, built without foundations due to the 20,000 bodies buried on the site, some dating back 1000 years.
Visitors can climb the 14th century tower – opening to the public for the first time – and visit The Ark Gallery, a recreation of the Tradescants’ 17th century cabinet of curiosities. Exhibits include the rediscovered tombstone of Elias Ashmole (Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum is based on his collection), Britain’s oldest watering-can and Harold Gilman’s iconic ‘Portrait of a Black Gardener’. The museum features a new, themed garden, described as an ‘Eden’ of rare plants.
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