Stroll around a seventeenth apothecary’s garden, followed by afternoon tea at the café. The Chelsea Physic Garden is a micro climate tucked away in Chelsea. It is the oldest in England (after Oxford) and is open to the public (closed Nov-Jan). If you’re near the King’s Road, take a cab for the 5 minute journey to this secret garden in London. There’s a small entrance fee; well worth it for the beauty of the garden and history of the site.
The garden is situated on the north bank of the River Thames. It’s original purpose was for the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to grow regular and exotic species’ of plants, for use in cures and remedies of the time. The river location offered a warm air current to stimulate plant growth. Plants would arrive at this secret garden in London from around the world delivered by boat up the Thames and ‘incubated’ in the garden – before delivery and introduction of the species to the rest of the British Isles. The garden is home to the UK’s largest fruiting olive tree, producing up to 7 lb of ripe olives each year.
A major benefactor of the garden was Sir Hans Sloane (of Sloane Square). He was a physician to Queen Anne and the early Hanoverian monarchs – and his position enabled him to amass a fortune through other ‘celebrity clients’ of the day. He indulged in collecting books and funding the garden’s vast collection of plants. Sloane is buried at the nearby Chelsea Old Church (where Sir Thomas Moore worshipped).
Chelsea Physic Garden: 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4HS