There’s a treat for both plant and history lovers this summer. On the first Friday of the month until September, Lambeth Palace – the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury – opens its garden to the public. It’s been continuously cultivated for longer than any other in the country, having been a private garden since the 12th c. Over the centuries, various incumbents have put their own stamp on it.
One of the first things you see is an enormous fig tree on the left of the entrance to the Great Hall. A White Marseilles variety, it was brought from Italy by Cardinal Pole when he arrived to become Queen Mary’s Archbishop in 1556. It still gives two crops of fruit a year, in July and October; some of this ends up as jam. The tree has also returned to Italy. In 2014, Archbishop Justin Welby visited Pope Francis in Rome and gave him a cutting from the tree as a symbol of the common heritage of the two religions.
The entrance to the garden is to the right of the main building (above). It covers 10 acres and includes a Jewel Border, Rose Arbour and a herb garden (below).
Some of these are currently on display in the Great Hall, which we were able to visit on the open garden afternoon.