Garden Museum re-opens

Want to see Alan Titchmarsh's Uniqlo jumper that he wore on Gardener's World, or the world's oldest watering can, or a collection of garden gnomes through the ages? Then the Garden Museum is the place to go, says Matt Appleby.

The Garden Museum reopens after 18 months of renovations.
Published on Tagged with

The Garden Museum, re-opens on May 22 2017 at St Mary’s-at-Lambeth church in London after a £7.5million revamp. The museum, which has been closed for redevelopment for 18-months has been undergoing a huge redevelopment project to restore the ancient structure of St Mary-at-Lambeth and transform it into a modern museum.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has provided much of the money for new gardens by renowned designers Dan Pearson and Christopher Bradley-Hole, while museum director Christopher Woodward has raised £100,000 for the museum through sponsored swims in the English Channel, Bosphorus and Straits of Gibraltar, and is planning a 30km Arctic fundraising swim to boost the funds.

Facilities have been upgraded and extended and the gallery space has been doubled too.

Many artworks have been added to the collection of garden objects and archives.

Archives include those of garden designers and plants people Penelope Hobhouse, John Brookes, Beth Chatto and Andrew Lawson. Paper records of modern gardeners such as Russell Page, Hugh Johnson and Joy Larkcom are also being added.

Further exhibits and galleries

Inside there are seven new galleries, with a part of John Tradescants Ark – a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ and one of the wonders of 17th century London, featuring The Tradescant’s Orchard exhibition from the collection of Elias Ashmole (of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum fame) and sponsored by Tiptree, with a long-term loan of objects for the Ark. Pioneering plant hunter John Tradescant is buried in the grounds and the new Ark Gallery has 25 items from Tradescant’s collection from the Ashmolean Museum.

Planned exhibitions include an exhibition from landscape gardener Humphrey Repton and British artist Cedric Morris’s paintings. The church tower, with more than 130 steep steps, is also now open and there are learning studios, which will host 90 classes of school children a year, as well as a cafe and workspace.

Woodward said the near thousand-year-old church will now house many items the museum, founded in 1977 by Rosemary Nicholson, could not display before. Star items include a Repton ‘red book’ of designs, gardener William Robinson’s cloak and Harold Gillman’s Black Gardener painting.

Woodward said two-thirds of children in central London live in houses without gardens but they will be able to study plant biology at the museum. A food-learning officer will also be employed.

Improvements meant that today was the first time in 1,000 years that it was warm enough to sit comfortably in the building, which is also used for weddings and other events, Woodward added. He hopes this will help make the museum self-sufficient. Woodward is also planning more acquisitions to add to the collection.

He said: “Why would someone come here rather than visiting a garden? We’re putting on something a garden can’t give.”

Matt Appleby

About Matt Appleby

Matt is a former teacher turned journalist. He took up writing while in New Zealand and trained as a journalist there. He has since written five books (three on cricket and two on gardening) with The Children's Garden due out in spring 2016 published by Frances Lincoln. He writes for Horticulture Week and other publications. Married with two boys, aged 3 and 6 he lives in London.
@mattapple1
View all posts by Matt.