The Tradescants

John Tradescant and his son, also John. They were an extraordinary pair: Gardeners to the aristocracy and royalty in the 17thc, as well as plant hunters, nurserymen and founders of the first museum to be open to the public. Famous in their own  lifetimes, and  continuously in the centuries since, their lives have even been romanticised by a modern novelist.

John senior worked for the Cecil family at Hatfield, and later the Duke of Buckingham, the royal favourite, and travelled to Europe buying plants for their gardens. He accompanied diplomats to northern Russia in 1618, with a naval fleet to North Africa in 1620, and on the military expedition to La Rochelle in 1627, using these opportunities to collecting plants and interesting objects. In the early 1630s he not only became a royal gardener but set up a nursery in Lambeth, publishing a catalogue of available plants, and opening his collection of curiosities to the public.

John junior worked alongside his father and in 1637 went to Virginia to collect plants. He succeeded his father a royal gardener a post he lost because of the Civil War. He published a catalogue of their museum which also included plants in the nursery.

The pair are buried in the same grave in the grounds of St Mary’s lambeth, which is now the Garden Museum.