John Tradescant, the Elder

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John Tradescant, the Elder

Birthdate: (68)
Death: 1638 (67)
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Tradescant
Husband of Elizabeth Tradescant
Father of John Tradescant, the Younger

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About John Tradescant, the Elder

John Tradescant the Elder

Birth date: c 1570

Birth Place: probably born in Suffolk, England.

Date of Death: 1638

Place of Death: London

Burial 17 April 1638 - churchyard of St-Mary-at-Lambeth, which is now the Museum of Garden History.

Epitaph on the Tradescant Tomb: "A world of wonders in one closet shut, These famous Antiquarians that had been, Both Gardiners to the Rose and Lily Queen, Transplanted now themselves, sleep here."[3]


Father: Thomas Tradescant (a descendant of Willelmus Treluskant of Suffolk) [4] left Suffolk in 1578


Marriage: Elizabeth Day at Meopham, Kent on 18 June 1607 [4]


Occupation: English naturalist, gardener, collector and traveller

Honours, Memorials and Awards:

Tradescant Road, off South Lambeth Road in Vauxhall, marks the former boundary of the Tradescant estate.

The generic name Tradescantia data from H. B. Ruppius, Flora Jenensis (1718), and was accepted by Linnaeus. [1]


He began his career as head gardener to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury at Hatfield House, who initiated Tradescant in travelling by sending him to the Low Countries for fruit trees in 1610/11. He was kept on by Robert's son William, to produce gardens at the family's London house, Salisbury House. He then designed gardens on the site of St Augustine's Abbey for Edward Lord Wotton in 1615-23.

In 1623 he moved to be gardener to the royal favorite George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, remodelling his gardens at New Hall, Essex and at Burley-on-the-Hill.

In 1630, 2 years after Buckingham's assassination in 1628, he was appointed Keeper of his Majesty's Gardens, Vines, and Silkworms at his queen's minor palace, Oatlands Palace in Surrey by the king.

In 1637 his final appointment was as curator of the newly founded Physic Garden at Oxford.


Possibly his first collecting trip in 1610 to Flanders for Robert Cecil.

In 1611 he visited the Lamont nursery at Rouen and the apothecary garden of jean Robin on the Île Notre-Dame.

1618 Muscovy Russia (Nikolo-Korelsky Monastery in Arctic Russia) where he collected curios such as an abacus, as well as botanic specimens - the white helebore and purple crane's bill are two plants from that journey. He was accompanied by Sir Dudley Digges on this trip.

In 1620 he joined Sir Samuel Argall’s expedition against the Barbary pirates in 1620,

1621 he visited Tangier, again collecting curios as well as plants and flowers -the Algiers Apricot is one introduced to England.

1623 - visited the Low Countries to collect the trees for Buckingham's parks.

Low Countries on Buckingham's behalf in 1624, Paris and (as an engineer for the ill-fated siege of La Rochelle) the Ile de Rhé with Buckingham In Publications:

His Catalogus(1634), the only known copy of which is in Magdalen College, lists 750 garden plants grown at South Lambeth, arranged alphabetically, and concludes with a catalog of fruits. Forty Virginia species have been recognized in this Catalogus upon the Musaeum Tradescantianum (1656) was based.

Other Notes:

He bought a house in the parish of Lambeth, London in 1625 when he was gardening for Charles I. Here he began cultivating his own botanical gardens introducing many plants that have become staples of the modern garden. He called his new home The Ark because, although it was a family home, the idea was that it was also a place he could keep the collection of curiosities he had gathered from around the world. This attracted so much interest that they opened part of their home as a museum.

It was the first public museum in the country, called Musaeum Tradscantianum. The museum was understandably very popular, with such rarities from around the world as never before encountered or even heard of by virtually any of the visitors." [3]

References, Sources/Links, Family Trees etc.





"Tradescant, John." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Retrieved April 27, 2011 from

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John Tradescant, the Elder's Timeline

Age 38
Kent, England
Age 68