Museum of Garden History, St Mary at Lambeth, South London

The Museum of Garden History in Lambeth is of some relevance to these pages because it contains several interesting monuments, and the building - the church of St Mary's, - had an important role as the home of the Lambeth School of Art. It is a short walk from the Tate Britain, across Lambeth bridge, and can form part of an artistic walk on the south side of the River Thames. Alas, after a period of free entry, there is now a charge.

The reason for the location of the museum is that it is close to where John Tradescant lived, and his grave is at the church. The Tradescants were the first well-known botanical collectors in Britain, making plant-collecting expeditions abroad and among other things, being credited with the introduction of apricots into England. They were friends with Elias Ashmole - also buried at the church, and much of their collection went to him. Portraits of the Tradescants are in Ashmole's museum - the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

So to the church and the monuments. St Mary at Lambeth is a medieval church, rebuilt in Victorian times (1851-2) by Philip Hardwick. However, the west tower, of Kentish ragstone, is original and dates from the 14th Century. In the courtyard are several tombs, chief of which is that to the Tradescants themselves, father and son. Also Ashmole, and William Bligh of the Bounty are buried here. Inside, there is information on Mrs Coade, maker of Coade stone, and there is a Coade stone Charity Boy, said to be made by John Bacon or (optimistically) Flaxman, both of whom produced work for the Coade manufactury. Also of local interest is a plaque in terracotta showing a crucifixion, by George Tinworth of Doulton's. There is a small collection of medals, some figural, connected with gardening. These date from the 19th and 20th centuries, and include two plaques showing girls, from 1920 - they were horticultural prizes by Toogood and Son, Southampton, and the sculptor was no less a personage than Hamo Thornycroft.

There is an interesting oil painting by Gertrude Jekyll, a lady connected with the gardening movement, but also, in her younger days at least, a painter. Jehu Driving Furiously (exhib. 1867) is a dramatic composition showing a chariot with horses galloping towards the viewer.

The church contains various busts on the walls, and we may also note a modernish stained glass window showing a pedlar and dog - the latest in a series of such pictures dating back to at least 1608 and connected with the reputed founder of the church. Other modern stained glass windows include one with garden scenes in mediaeval style, starting with Adam and Eve. This window was designed by Lawrence Lee and given by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters on Glass Windows, 1981.

In the garden are various tombs, including that of Captain Bligh of the Bounty (his house is by the Imperial War Museum close by), in Coade Stone. Like other monuments in this material, the tomb is notably whiter than most marble, and retains a crispness of outline that shows how weather and acid-resistant it is.

The most ornate monument is that of the Tradescants - originally of 1662 (put up by the widow of John Tradescant the Younger, later herself commemorated there). It became much dilapidated, and was repaired in 1773 and 'entirely repaired' again in 1853, as noted on the inscription. Sculptural work runs around the sides of the monument - at the bottom, the arms of the Tradescant family; on one side Greek pillars, a pyramid, an obelisk and other ruins; and on the opposite side a view of Egyptian buildings, with shells and a crocodile. Most arresting is the scene at the back end, showing a hydra picking at a human skull. At the corners, large trees are shown supporting the top and framing the sides.

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