The houses of Tradescant and Ashmole, South Lambeth

The houses of Tradescant and Ashmole, South Lambeth

Image 1. The Houses of John Tradescant and Elias Ashmole, South Lambeth (from Tennant, 1773), wood engraving, c. 1883; published in Old and New London (c. 1883). Public domain. Source: Wikimedia.

Commentary. The original engraving of 1773 from which this wood engraving derives can be viewed here. 'It is now generally accepted that the left-hand portion of the building was the Tradescant family home, although the lease of which was acquired by Elias Ashmole shortly after Hester Tradescant’s death in 1678…. Turret House refers to the right-hand dwelling which was the former home of Ashmole.’ Source: Lambeth Landmarks.

It was in this situation of claustrophobic proximity that a bitter dispute over ownership of the museum erupted between John Tradescant jr, his wife, widow and executrix, Hester, and their neighbour, Elias Ashmole. A brief account by Arthur MacGregor can be found in the ODNB.

Image 2.

Commentary. In 1719, John Aubrey found the garden of the Tradescants much diminished: 'Very few rare plants are now remaining here; only a very fair Horse-Ches-Nut tree, some Pine-Trees and Sumach-Trees, Phylerea's &c, and at the Entrance into the Gate, over the Bridge of the Mote, are two vast Ribs of a Whale.' Three decades later, the work of the Tradescants was still perceptable only to the practiced eye: as Dr William Watson noted in 1750, the garden had been 'many years totally neglected and the House belonging to it empty and ruin'd yet though the garden is quite cover'd with Weeds, there remain among them manifest Footsteps of its Founder.' In 1879, the house was demolished to make way for a new housing estate.  The only trace of the former occupants on these grounds is now recorded in the street signs marking 'Tradescant Road'.

Image 3. 125A South Lambeth Road, Oct. 2016.  Source: Google Earth.  The site of Tradescant's Ark is now occupied by the Three Lions Cafe Bar Restaurant.

For further detail see 'Vauxhall and South Lambeth: Vauxhall Escheat', in Survey of London: Volume 26, Lambeth: Southern Area, ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1956), pp. 73-80, British History Online. Arthur Macgregor, 'The Tradescants: Gardeners and Botanists', in Tradescant's Rarities (1983), pp. 15-16.