Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library

We are the friends of the Tate South Lambeth Library, 180 South Lambeth Road, SW8 1QP. For official information about the library, including opening hours and contact details, please visit the library’s own website here.

Tate Free Library design

Library Garden

May 2020 update

As the library is closed, the library garden is too, so the plants are having to look after themselves for now.

May 2019 update

This year the Library Gardening Group is continuing to open the ‘Tradescant’s Retreat’ garden every 2nd Saturday each month, from 1.30 til about 4.00, but also at other times for watering etc. We would like to be able to open it up more, but need more volunteers to do this – do come along to an opening if you are interested in doing this or in helping to look after the garden.

The 'Warm Welcome' rose, planted last year, is in flower now
The ‘Warm Welcome’ Rose, planted last year, is in flower.

The garden provides an opportunity to meet others interested in gardening, to share seeds and plants,  do some gardening or just sit and read or enjoy the garden. There are benches and a gazebo so there is somewhere to sit and shelter.

If you have any spare plants that you could donate, we would be most grateful. Please bring them on the day.

About the Group

The Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library (FTSLL) gardening group was launched on 12th May 2012.

The objective of the group is to share local skills; seeds; cuttings and produce.

We also regularly garden in the small library garden, located at the back of the library.

We hope to support each other with our own garden planting concerns and to support the local vicinity community / street gardening initiatives.

We open the garden every second Saturday of the month, from 1.30 onwards.

How Tradescant’s Retreat was founded

In 2010 FTSLL obtained funds from Lambeth Council’s Ward Purse (a programme of grants to community projects endorsed by ward councillors) for the renovation of the then decrepit courtyard.

The whole area was repaved and a garden are installed at one end , with a water butt fed by a downpipe from the library roof. An outdoor table was also installed. FTSLL contributed money to buy plants, compost, a watering can and a yard brush. Members also kindly donated plants.

Named Tradescant’s Retreat the courtyard was ready for use in Spring 2010. Gerry Holtham, husband of the Friend’s chairman, established and previously tended the garden.

We have had funds from the New Covent Garden Market to buy plants, including some from the list of plants collected and brought to England by the Tradescants. We are also supported by the Garden Museum, who have provided us with compost and funding to buy plants from the Tradescant Plant List, and members of the  Tradescant Area Residents Association  for compost and plants.

Some information about the great plant collectors, the Tradescants

According to the the Vauxhall Society’s “A guide to the church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, London” by Francis Terry:

John Tradescant the Elder first settled in Lambeth over 350 years ago. With his son, also named John, he was responsible for introducing so many new trees, shrubs, herbaceous and climbing plants into England, that he can truly be said to have founded English gardening as we know it.

The library is very near to Tradescant Road which was built on the location of the gardens of the John Tradescants’ house in Lambeth.

Google map of local community gardens and places of interest to gardeners

Note, the entries on this map has not been checked recently, but it gives you an idea of what is in the area. To view the details of each place easily, click on the ‘View Tradescant’s Retreat Gardening Group Map in a larger map’ link to open a larger version.

View Tradescant’s Retreat Gardening Group Map in a larger map


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