The John Tradescants – father and son
Collectors of plants and curiosities – Lesley Newnham
In-person or online – scroll down to choose.
The lifetimes of John Tradescant the Elder and Younger spanned the years from the 1570s until the 1660s. They are renowned for being collectors of plants and ‘curiosities’ from all over the known world. Although of humble stock, they both worked for aristocracy and royalty. Their plants are familiar in our gardens today and their curiosities were the foundation for the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Their own gardens were in Lambeth and both generations of plantsmen are buried at St-Mary-at-Lambeth. The church, threatened with demolition, instead opened in 1977 as the first museum of garden history, now known as The Garden Museum.
How did John Tradescant the Elder achieve his impressive rise to prominence? How did he become a collector of plants as well as a grower? What do we know about his travels, his nursery business in Lambeth and his pioneering museum?
In what respects did his son exhibit his father’s significant talents and build on his achievements?
How is their legacy assessed in the 21st century?
When Lesley Newnham retired from her work as a remedial masseur, she found she needed to turn to research to keep herself engaged. Her original interest in the Tradescants was sparked by Philippa Gregory’s historical novel ‘Earthly Joys’, which combined two of her interests: gardening and history. It led her to tracking down more about this unusual duo.
Lesley belongs to the RHS and has spent some happy hours at Harlow Carr on the edge of Harrogate. She enjoys designing gardens and establishing them from scratch but believes that the best gardens are put together from plants received from friends and family where every time you walk round some fond memory is evoked.
Painting of John Tradescant the younger: https://www.ashmolean.org/collections-online#/item/ash-object-372618
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