Sunday 23 January 2011

A Mermaid's Hand in The Ark

The John Tradescants, father and son, were well-known plant collectors in the late 1550s and early 1600s. I have a number of those lovely trailing pot plants called Tradescantia after these gentlemen. But I have another reason to be grateful to them because they founded what was to be England's first museum in Lambeth by the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Palace, south of the Thames. They called it the Ark. There they collected all manner of curiosities and allowed members of the public to visit. One of the items listed was: A Mermaid's Hand. I purposely don't put an exclamation mark after that, because, in all seriousness, mermaids were thought then to exist. So whenever I study early samplers or needlework pictures, I try to adopt the mindset of a believer in mermaids. If you are in London, do visit the Museum of the Garden by Lambeth Palace, it is a lovely museum and there you can see the Tradescants' tomb. And you may be interested to learn that Elias Ashmole, also buried there, bought the Tradescants' house and the contents of the Ark became the basis for his museum in Oxford - today called the Ashmolean. For more on this interesting subject you might like to read the fascinating book: The John Tradescants: Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen.


  1. Ooh Jacqueline what another wonderful story, how do you find all these treasures (by a lot of research I'm sure). The museum has got the famous Dutch gardener Piet Oudolf exhibition on and a must for me:))

  2. I do so agree with you,the Museum of Garden History is a great place to visit. I never associated Tradescantia with the Tradescants but now you mention it!

    I love mermaid images so this has been a great post!

  3. Love that mermaid, I have done a few pieces with folk art mermaids.


  4. Ooh yes, Piet Oudolf is my favourite too!