John Tradescant The Elder c1560-1638
was a Royal gardener, collector of curiosities and importer of exotic plants who came from Suffolk. He worked for a series
of eminent patrons including Charles 1st and Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury who had gardens at Theobolds and Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Tradescant’s London house is shown, based on a watercolour by George Shepherd in the Asmolean Museum
in Oxford. Tradescant appears in his Lambeth garden teaching one of his workers the art of grafting trees using the type of
tools illustrated in Leonard Mascall’s ‘Art of Planting and Grafting’ 1572. The knot garden designs come
from William Lawson’s ‘The Country Housewife’s Garden’ 1638 and the butterfly flitting amongst the
trees is a White Admiral (Ladoga cammilla).
Tradition has it that the famous carving of a gardener on a newel
post on the Staircase of Hatfield House is that of John Tradescant. That story is illustrated here and we can see the great
gardener posing for the carver whilst Robert Cecil watches him chipping away. Behind the Earl, in the distance is ‘Bess’s
Oak’, an ancient tree that still exists today. Why so called? Another tradition has it that under it’s boughs
the young Elizabeth was sitting when King Philip of Spain’s special envoy to Queen Mary came to Hatfield to tell her
that the Monarch was dying and she would be the new ruler within a week. The year was 1558 but as the actual month was November,
the hardy Elizabeth must have been well wrapped up against the cold.
A. Pruning knife B.
C. Hammer with a File and Piercer D. Chisel