Cabinet of Curiosities Posted on April 13, 2017

A morning at the Garden Museum with its ebullient director Christopher Woodward. He has much to ebull about. The redevelopment that has kept the museum closed for 18 months is nearly finished. On May 9th Friends will see the result and be amazed. It has been transformed, inside and out.

The main body of the museum is the nave of the gothic St Mary’s, Lambeth, but now it has an ingenious mezzanine with room for collections of garden gear; tools and paraphernalia in wonderful variety, including many of the sort of charming horticultural paintings you know must exist but would rarely be able to find. I intend to spend happy hours enjoying them.

The floor of the nave is a generous space for gatherings and lectures. The restaurant that was one of its most popular features, with home-made food that always manages to seem relevant, now has an airy space of its own in the new building that forms a cloister, surrounding the inner garden of 17th century plants designed by Dan Pearson, and its two famous tombs, of John Tradescant and Admiral Byng.

I was amazed by how many rooms and activities have found space in the new development. They include a substantial classroom for students and school-children, a studio, a teaching kitchen, and the Tile Wall which is already shaping up as a memorable feature. One of Christopher’s many snappy fund-raising ideas was to invite gardeners to adopt a ceramic tile made from their favourite garden photograph. 200-odd photos could keep you browsing for a long while. Another of his enterprises was to borrow back from the Ashmolean Museum some of the objects from John Tradescant’s collection that originally formed its core – and to swim from Oxford to London to raise the necessary money. They have their own gallery.

All this, and a surprisingly big outer garden, designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole and maintained by volunteers, seems to have expanded the whole enterprise by a factor of three or four. London’s museums have a serious new recruit.

Christopher’s blog on the museum’s website is well worth reading. www.gardenmuseum.org.uk

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