The new garden (above) and the old one (below)
The newly revamped Garden Museum, next door to Lambeth Palace, is a triumph of professionalism over history and intimacy. It used to be my favourite place for lunch in the whole of London. You could sit at tables in the garden with overhanging trees, the graves of the Tradescants and Captain Bligh on one side and a couple of banana trees and a rosemary tree on the other, the nearest place to Eden in the metropolis.
Now it has yielded to modernity but anyone who didn’t know what preceded it will doubtless be very impressed. Gone are the exotic trees and the café now occupies a sealed off area on the far side. But in their place is a finely conceived sculptural space which is likely to attract far more tourists. The inside of St Mary’s church, now given over to museum space, is for sure, a huge improvement on the impertinent wood structures which dominated the walls before the changes.
But it is hard for anyone who knew it before to condone the destruction of what was a magical garden in the middle of London. Not something you would have expected an organisation dedicated to the history of gardens to have done. As Patrick Hutber once said, progress brings deterioration.