St Mary's Chilham

People: John Tradescant

John Tradescant - 1618

John Tradescant first travelled after 1609 when he entered the service of Robert Cecil who became the first Earl of Salisbury. He visited sites all over Europe to bring back plants and trees including roses, fritillaries and mulberrys to the gardens at Hatfield. Later (1618), in the service of Sir Edward Wotton, Tradescant accompanied a diplomatic mission to Russia with Sir Dudley Digges from Chilham, they were best of friends, and he also visited Algiers, always taking botanical notes and gathering plants. By the 1620's Tradescant had achieved a prominent position as a director of gardens whose advice was sought by the highest in the land.

When the Jacobean house at Chilham Castle was completed by Sir Dudley Digges asked John Tradescant to design the gardens. They consisted of a large walled garden laid out in a series of eight of sloping ground divided by walls and fences and each planted with a pattern of boxed beds and paths and terraces with a gazebo at the eastern end. The Black Mulberry which still stands is possibly a tree collected on John Tradescantís travels round Europe. Chilham Castle garden remained in being until Thomas Heron sought the advice of Capability Brown around 1780.

In 1629 John Tradescant was appointed Royal Gardener. The John Tradescants are buried in the churchyard of St-Mary-at-Lambeth which is now the Museum of Garden History, along with the grandson of the same name, who died aged nineteen. The knot garden at the museum is in the style of the Tradescants' time.

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