It used to be called the Museum of Garden History, now it's the Garden Museum. And it used to be a shabby, down-at-the-heels space, carved out of the ground floor of a former church. And now it is a "wow": renovated by London architects Dow Jones. The museum has been around since 1977, saved because the tomb of the 17th century plant hunters, the Tradescants, was discovered in the church yard and the tomb of Captain Bligh, famed captain of HMS Bounty.
The new renovation brings the museum up to date with proper curatorial conditions and separate rooms for exhibits. The architects have built a structural box of spruce that allows room for a simple new windowless gallery inside and a mezzanine exhibition storey above for the permanent collection. There is a wide, theatrical staircase leading up to this space.
The light-coloured timber blends in well with the creamy stone of the original church so that in some places it is difficult to tell where the new starts. However the inserted new space also blocks out some of the glorious stained glass windows. And it leaves a huge empty space on the ground floor filled with only a long table with books. It seems a terrible waste of space in the prime area of the building.
The museum has a large permanent collection covering the history of gardening over the last 400 years. It includes early tools, old gardeners’ boots, Gertrude Jekyll’s desk, old seed packages and other familiar gardening objects. It also has temporary exhibitions. Presently there is an exhibition of the life and times of the famed English gardener Beth Chatto.
Captain Bligh's Tomb
Garden Museum and Financial Times