Dr john fothergill

A guide to the apothecary’s garden

On 23 May 1804, two months before his daughter’s wedding, John Coakley Lettsom threw open his estate in Camberwell. Some 800 guests made their way to Grove Hill, with its panoramic views across the Thames to London. A leading doctor and noted philanthropist, a prolific author on matters medical, social and moral, Lettsom was famously convivial. But if any of his guests had been expecting music, dancing and cards, they were in for a disappointment. Lettsom was a Quaker — though not of the strictest variety — and the evening’s entertainment centred on ‘rational pleasure’. Guests were invited to view the shells, corals and minerals on display in his museum,