The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 12 Historical Gardens

Lambeth Gardens and Clarendon's Walk

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Lambeth, on the opposite bank, fared no better than Westminster for high tides, and wet seasons did occasional damage there. In Archbishop Laud's Diary, he notes the inroad of a high tide, which certainly would be destructive:-"November 15, 1635, Sunday. At afternoon the greatest tide that hath been seen. It came within my gates, walks, cloysters, and stables at Lambeth." Nothing of great antiquity now remains in these Lambeth Gardens, although they are indeed historic ground. The long terrace and wide herbaceous border, with a profusion of madonna lilies, backed by a wooden paling, and fruit-trees peeping over, is now a charming walk. The trees on the right of the illustration are planes, ailanthus, and catalpas, all smoke-resisting and suitable, but not such as would have ornamented the Garden in older days, when Archbishop Cranmer adorned his garden with "a summer-house of exquisite workmanship." It was designed by his chaplain, Dr. John Ponet or Poynet, who is said to have had "great skill and taste in works of that kind." The summer-house was repaired by Archbishop Parker, but afterwards fell into decay and was removed, and in 1828 not even a tradition of where it had stood remained. The site of "Clarendon's Walk," another historical corner of the Lambeth Garden, is also uncertain. It appears to have received the name from a conversation which took place in the Garden between Laud and Hyde, in which the latter seems to have told the Archbishop pretty plainly that "people were universally discontented... and many people spoke extreme ill of his grace," on account of his discourteous manners, which culminated on one occasion by his telling a guest "he had no time for compliments," which greatly incensed him. The only survivals of former years are the delightfully fragrant fig-trees, which flourish between the buttresses on the sunny side of the library-the great hall rebuilt by Archbishop Juxon after the destruction in Cromwell's time. These figs are now fair-sized trees, but they are only cuttings of the older ones destroyed in 1829, when Archbishop Howley commenced his rebuilding. The two parent trees, in 1792, measured 28 inches and 21 inches in circumference, and were 50 feet high and 40 feet in breadth, and, according to contemporary evidence, bore delicious fruit of the white Marseilles variety. Tradition ascribed their planting to Cardinal Pole during his brief sojourn as Archbishop. Latimer seems much to have appreciated the Lambeth Garden, when business called him to the Palace. Sir Thomas More describes, in 1534, how he watched him walking in the Garden from the windows. Latimer himself, in writing to Edward VI., says, "I trouble my Lord of Canterbury, and being at his house now and then, I walk in the Garden looking at my book, as I can do but little good at it. But something I must needs do to satisfy the place. I am no sooner in the Garden and have read awhile, but by-and-by cometh there some one or other knocking at the gate. Anon cometh my man and saith, 'Sir, there is one at the gate would speak with you.'" How many of us that have been called in from a pleasant garden to perform some unpleasant task will sympathise with the Bishop! One famous inhabitant of the Garden lived through many and great changes. This was a tortoise, which is said to have been put into the Garden by Archbishop Laud, and lived until 1757, when he perished by the negligence of a gardener. This legend is apparently quite true, so it had been there for over 110 years.