I first read about John Tradescant the Elder in Phillipa Gregory’s novel Earthly Joys a novel that I reread at least once a year. I love reading about the history of gardens and the people who lived their lives creating and collecting botanical treasures.
John Tradescant the Elder (c. 1570s to April 1638)
John Tradescant the Elder, the father of John Tradescant the Younger, was an English naturalist, gardener, collector and traveller, born in Suffolk, England. He began his career as head gardener to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury at Hatfield House. Cecil sent Tradescant to the Low Countries for fruit trees which was the start of his travelling to collect rare and beautiful plants and trees. He made gardens at Salisbury House in London and he designed gardens on the site of St Augustine’s Abbey for Edward Lord Wotton in 1615-23. In 1630, he was engaged by King Charles 1 to be Keeper of his Majesty’s Gardens, Vines and Silkworms at his queen’s small palace, Oatlands Palace in Surrey.
On all his trips he collected seeds and bulbs and assembled a collection of curiosities of natural history and ethnography which he housed in a large house, ‘The Ark’, in Lambeth, London. The Ark was the prototypical Cabinet of Curiosity, a collection of rare and strange objects, that became the first museum open to the public in England, the Musaeum Tradescantianum.
He was buried in the churchyard of St-Mary-at-Lambeth, as was his son; the churchyard is now established as the Garden Museum.
Gardens are the thread that binds all my novels together and I can think of nothing more beautiful.
Have a wonderful day,