Lambeth Palace Road
London SE1 7LB
TfL Fare Zone 1
This museum was previously called the ‘Museum of Garden History’. Throughout the years the space has undergone restoration and the collections of old tools and ephemera have grown considerably.
Saving the Church
This museum is housed in the deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth adjacent to the Tudor gatehouse of Lambeth Palace.
The church retains is original Tudor chapel where many 15th and 16th century members of the Duke of Norfolk/Howard family are buried including the mother of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.
The Pedlar and his Dog
On the walls are 16th and 17th century memorial brasses and one of the windows depicts the legend of the Lambeth Pedlar and his Dog. The picture is of a man weighted down with a back pack, with a dog at his feet. This is not the original window from 1608 which was destroyed in WW II. After the war Saint Mary’s parishioners, loyal to the memory of the mysterious pedlar, commissioned the replacement window - but who was the pedlar?
The story goes that this eccentric salesman hoarded the money earned by selling his wares door to door and the only comfort he allowed himself was his dog. When the dog died the pedlar was so bereft that he pledged to leave all his money to the parish if they agreed to either bury the dog in the churchyard, or commemorate him in the church. The churchwarden’s account for 1608 includes the following: “Two shillings paid to the glazier for a panel of glass for the window where the picture of the pedlar stands.”
Near the entrance to the museum is what looks like a round bath set into the floor. It is a 19th century baptistery for parishioners requiring total immersion baptism.
Recognisable by its medieval tower, the ancient church underwent restoration in the mid 19th century.
Deconsecration occurred in 1972 and the church closed. It was about to be demolished in 1976 despite its ancient associations with the Tudor monarchy and aristocracy.
Discovery of Tradescant and Bligh Tombs
Fortunately the churchyard was found to contain the graves of the 16th century royal gardeners, John Tradescant the Elder and John the Younger. Sir William Bligh of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' fame is also buried in the churchyard. The Tradescant connection led to the establishment of the world’s first Museum of Garden History.
The Garden Museum
This highly unusual museum is a brilliant mixture of gardening history and church archaeology. The Gallery of garden artefacts and tools contains things such as a Neolithic pick and axe, a Tudor thumb pot, a cucumber straightener, early seed catalogues and an extraordinary Royal Doulton china piece of the fabled ‘Vegetable Lamb’ (a plant that supposedly grew baby sheep which then fed off the plant!)
Outside in the churchyard a garden has been created in a design which would have been familiar to the Tradescants. The centrepiece is a reproduction 17th century knot garden with historically correct plantings. The low hedges forming the geometric patterns are of dwarf box. In summer the plantings resemble a country garden and in winter are more formal. In the centre of the knot garden is a remarkable example of spiral topiary. Roses manage to thrive in the garden and topiary is an important feature.
Plan Your Visit
The Museum is closed the first Monday of every month.
Otherwise, the Museum, Café and shop are open every day.
Sunday - Friday: 10:30 - 17:00
Saturday: 10:30 - 16:00
Please refer to Museum web site for up to date times Web: Museum Opening Times or
Tel: +(0)2074 018 865
Children under 16 admitted free.
Visit the museum web site for up to date entry costs Web: Museum Admission Costs
Wheelchair accessible with ramps and a self-operated lift.
Further details on Web: Disabled Access
Available from the front desk for a suggested donation of around £1
Please note that last orders in the café are 30 minutes before closing. Visit Museum web site for Garden Cafe’s Vegetarian Menu details with costs, opening times and other important information Web: Garden Cafe
The Tradescant Family
The Tradescant Family and the Bligh tombs are to the right of the knot garden and are well worth studying. Father and son Tradescant had a large plant nursery in the area and Tradescant Road off South Lambeth Road in Vauxhall marks the outer boundary of their estate. They lived in a large house in Vauxhall in which they displayed all the curios and plants brought back from their trips around the world. The house was called ‘The Ark’ and the collection formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
William Bligh lived in a house opposite the current Imperial War Museum in Kennington. His house is marked by a blue plaque. The Bligh tomb is made of Coade stone, a hardwearing artificial stone made out of a mixture of crushed flint, crushed soda, lime, glass, fine quartz, ground up pottery and clay. The material was fired in a kiln and then available for carving into monuments or cutting into slabs. Mrs Coade who invented the product had it manufactured in Lambeth and it was an extremely popular material in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Contact & Further Information
+44 ( 0)2074 018 865
TfL Fare Zone 1 Transport for London Journey Planner
The Museum website has very good Web: ‘Getting There’ information
- By Underground
Nearest tube stations are Westminster, Waterloo, Lambeth North or Vauxhall.
Westminster Station District, Circle & Jubilee Lines
From Westminster Station: walk across Westminster Bridge, turning down Lambeth Palace Road past St Thomas’ Hospital to St Mary-at-Lambeth Church (The Garden Museum); or
From Westminster Station: walk past Houses of Parliament and along Millbank turning across Lambeth Bridge turning left into Lambert Palace Road to St Mary-at-Lambeth Church (The Garden Museum).
- By Mainline Rail
The nearest mainline stations are Victoria, Waterloo and Vauxhall
- By Bus
An easier method of travel to the Museum You can take the 3, 344, 360, 507 or C10 bus directly to the Museum. We suggest that you visit the Transport for London website link above and use their 'Journey Planner'
Google Maps - Garden Museum