(Please note: as this blog has been transferred from our old website some images are low resolution.)
Our Australian Gardens’ DVD series presenter, Eamonn Katter, has recently returned to Australia after living in London for the past few years.
Here he shares a story about Captain Bligh’s burial place, which he visited at various times over the seasons.
In one of these unassuming London terrace houses lived the 4th Governor of the Colony of New South Wales.
100 Lambeth Road was the home of William Bligh, Vice Admiral, FRS, RN (9 September 1754 – 7 December 1817) a key figure in Australia’s history, not least for his laudable efforts to remove corruption in the colony during his governorship.
Though Bligh’s home has no garden of significance, his resting place, just one block west is brimful with garden history.
Here on the south bank of the River Thames, at St. Mary’s Church Lambeth, is Bligh’s tomb. The church, now deconsecrated, has been converted into the Garden Museum.
It’s in an incredibly historic part of London surrounded by landmarks and adjoining Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
If you cross the road and look over the River Thames towards the Middlesex bank, you see the imposing, perpendicular gothic elevation – Charles Barry’s Palace of Westminster.
Back through the churchyard entry gates is a view to the western tower (Victoria Tower) of the Palace of Westminster, otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament.
The Church of St Mary’s Lambeth was rescued from demolition in the late 1970s.
The front churchyard has a rhythmical line of topiaries edging the lawned gravesite.
This first flush of spring bulbs (above) are followed with a summer meadow display (below).
William Bligh’s tomb is in the walled garden at the rear of the Church, prominently positioned in the space adjoining the feature knot garden.
The pedimented tomb is surmounted by a classical vase holding a breadfruit. One of Bligh’s many achievements was to introduce the breadfruit tree to the Caribbean from Tahiti on his famous voyage The Bounty.
The Neoclassical tomb was moulded in Coade Stone or Lithodipyra (stone fired twice). Coade Stone, named after its creator Mrs Eleanor Coade, was the first high quality ceramic stoneware or artificial stone used extensively in the United Kingdom in the latter half of the 18th Century. Decorative neoclassical pieces of stoneware were produced in Coade Stone for many British landmarks including St George’s Chapel Windsor, The Royal Pavilion Brighton, Royal Naval College Greenwich and for the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
In Coelo Quies – In Heaven Is Rest
‘To the memory of William Bligh Esquire E.R.S, Vice Admiral of the Blue. The celebrated navigator who first transplanted the Bread Fruit Tree from Otaheite to The West Indies. Bravely fought the battles of his country and died beloved, respected and lamented on the 7th day of December 1817, aged 64.’
In summer the garden’s transformed with perennials and annuals between the hedges.
The knot garden is planted with species introduced to Lambeth by John Tradescant the Elder (c.1570-1638) and his son John, (1608-1662) passionate gardeners and collectors who travelled extensively to source unique species.
John the Elder travelled to Russia and North Africa and the younger made three trips to America. Amongst plants they brought back were the tulip tree, red maple, swamp cypress and the yucca.
Although the Tradescant’s Garden, which was in Lambeth parish, has long vanished the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, President of the garden museum, designed the garden in the spirit of the Tradescant’s period.
Minor axes and vistas have been created around the walled garden incorporating many existing gravestones set into the brickwork on the ground.
The knot garden was created in 1980. Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, a famous gardener, was also responsible for the stunning redesign of the gardens at her home Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
Lambeth Palace can be glimpsed over the wall. Through the lawn the first spring daffodils emerging are followed a few months later by flourishing roses and Virginia Creeper that soften the wall.
Gardeners have mimicked the castellations on the east wall in the yew hedge that divides the churchyard.
In the winter mist.
Categories: Historic Gardens