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CCCU celebrates the 'father of gardening'

12 January 2016

It’s 400 years since the ‘father of English gardening’, John Tradescant ‘the elder’, worked to landscape the grounds of St Augustine’s Abbey, now part of the University’s North Holmes Campus. To celebrate the anniversary, the University has planted a larch tree, a species he brought to the country in the seventeenth century.

John Tradescant ‘the elder’ was an English naturalist, gardener, collector and traveller who is thought to have been born in Suffolk in the late-1570s. Tradescant designed and created gardens and landscaped areas for high-profile figures and royalty around the world, including Robert Cecil, the 1 st Earl of Salisbury.

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John Tradescant 'the elder'

Tradescant worked as Cecil’s personal gardener for a number of years at their family home, Salisbury House, until he died in 1612. Cecil’s residence was passed to Edward, Lord Wootten of Marley, who employed Tradescant to design ornamental gardens at St Augustine’s Abbey.

John Tradescant ‘the elder’, and his son, John Tradescant ‘the younger’, undertook many voyages across the globe resulting in the introduction of a wide range of important plants to England. One specimen was the larch tree, following a journey to the Nikolo Korelsky Monastery in Arctic Russia in 1618. To commemorate Tradescant’s work and the University’s association with St Augustine’s Abbey, the University’s Grounds and Gardens Team planted a larch tree on the site in late December. The tree was blessed by the Rev David Stroud, Senior Chaplain at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Mat Baldwin, Grounds Supervisor at Christ Church, said: “It is a real privilege to be carrying on a rich tradition of gardening on this site. The Tradescant’s made a real impact on gardening in England, and while the original gardens on our site are not here anymore, we are keen to uphold these traditions, whilst developing a sustainable and nature friendly version of grounds management, in line with the University's mission.”

As well as his journey to Russia in 1618, Tradescant ‘the elder’, while still working for Lord Wootten in Canterbury, joined a punitive expedition against the Algerian corsairs in the Mediterranean in 1621, and brought back "apricockes", gladioli and the horse chestnut, amongst other plant specimens. His son, who enrolled at The King’s School, Canterbury went on to collect plants in the ‘New World’ including the Virginia creeper.

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Team planting the larch tree

Professor Peter Vujakovic, Chair of the University's Biodiversity Working Group, said: “While much of our focus has been on links with the original monastic heritage, Tradescant 400 provides a new and exciting strand in our initiative and a global link to our education and research in areas such as plant science, biogeography, ecology, health and wellbeing.

“Planting the larch tree is merely the beginning of the celebrations that we have planned for the anniversary period taking us to 2023. We have wanted to develop a garden for experimental purposes for our Science Quad for some time and Tradescant 400 will give further incentive to this project.”

The University has a strong focus on biodiversity with its Bioversity initiative which aims to enrich the student and staff experience through contact with nature. The North Holmes Campus aims to become an urban biodiversity hub which reflects its rich cultural heritage, but which also focuses on future social and environmental responsibility.

Notes to Editor

*From left to right: Dr Simon Harvey, Director of Life Sciences, Jaimie Morris, University Instructor and Postgraduate Researcher in the School of Human and Life Sciences, Rev David Stroud, Senior Chaplain, Professor Peter Vujakovic, Chair of the Biodiversity Working Group and Br Micael Christoffer, Associate Chaplain and Franciscan Friar and Glenn Slade, Grounds and Gardens Team, planting the larch tree.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With almost 18,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 95% of our UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.

*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 04/12/2017 23:58:00