The Garden Museum, set up in 1977 in the abandoned ancient church of St Mary at Lambeth, is preparing for a major makeover. The museum is unique, celebrating the art, design and history of gardens, with temporary exhibitions about horticulture, a permanent display of paintings, tools and historic artefacts and an education centre.
Being in such a historic building, and with limited space, the curators have never been able to display all the objects they have in storage.Now a £3.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund means that later this year work can begin on a new gallery inside the existing building, with further facilities constructed around the courtyard, including a new cafe with direct street access and an education centre.Chelsea gold medal winner Dan Pearson is redesigning the garden, bringing together the churchyard and the knot garden, with its array of 17c plants.
The church is a fitting place for such a museum. In its grounds is the tomb of the two great English gardeners and plant hunters, John Tradescant the elder and his son, also John.During the 17th c they went on expeditions to Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa and America on behalf of kings, queens and other wealthy clients. They sought out new seeds, bulbs and plants and also brought back ‘curiousities’ that were housed in the family’s house, ‘The Ark’, in Lambeth, and eventually formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum’s collection in Oxford. Also buring in the churchyard is another plant collector, Captain William Blight, who brought breadfruit from the South Pacific and introduced them to the Caribbean.
The redevelopment will mean the closure of the museum from late summer until early 2017.