Greenroofs.com Project of the Week: May 7, 2018
London’s iconic and beautiful 1938 Kensington Roof Gardens – and celebrity party venue – closed its doors to the public in early January. Citing an ever changing London market and unpredictable market conditions, Virgin Limited Edition decided to close their doors.
As an English Heritage-designated Grade II Site added to the National Heritage List for England, the gardens will remain intact but who will maintain the site, with its four resident flamingos, is up in the air. The historic Derry & Toms Roof Gardens was designed by Ralph Hancock, the same designer as the equally famous ‘Garden of the Nations’ of 1933-1935 atop the eleventh floor of the RCA building at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Also read the April 27, 2018 guest feature 37 Years After Opening to the Public, the Kensington Roof Gardens Has Closed Down by Pedro Dias here on Greenroofs.com for more info on this important urban greening project.
Mini Description & Details
The Roof Gardens (formerly known as Derry and Toms Roof Gardens and the Kensington Roof Gardens) is a 6,000 m2 exotic urban oasis situated six floors up and 100 feet above Kensington High Street in London. Closed as of January 2018, Virgin Limited Edition, the most recent leaseholder, was not able to reach an agreement with the freeholder about renewal of the lease.
Previously occupied and made famous by the Derry & Toms Department Store, The Roof Gardens has been owned by Sir Richard Branson since 1982. Part of Virgin Limited Edition, they hosted a members’ club, a private function venue and the Babylon Restaurant on the seventh floor overlooking the gardens.
The Roof Gardens was open to the public during this time. In 1936, Welsh landscape architect Ralph Hancock designed the roof garden. Over a two-year period Hancock planted more than 500 species of plants and shrubs within 18-36” of growing media in the one and a half acre site.
The Derry and Toms Roof Gardens opened in May 1938. Queen Mary and other members of the British Royal family visited the roof gardens early after opening. At the time, the roof garden was London and Europe’s largest intensive greenroof.
The three themed gardens include: the Spanish Garden, planted with palm trees with a court of fountains, as well as Moorish colonnades and vine-covered walkways; the formal Tudor Courtyard, which features Hancock’s trademark herringbone brickwork pathways and impressive Tudor-inspired arches; and the English Woodland Garden, with over 100 trees and a flowing stream with fish, ducks, and four resident flamingos.
Now closed after 37 years of one of London’s best-known nightlife scenes and event venues, plans for The Roof Gardens remain uncertain.
As an English Heritage-designated Grade II Site, the gardens will not be demolished but who will maintain the site is unknown. London’s most famous and historic roof garden may still yet have a future as a secret garden in the sky.
Owner: Virgin Limited Edition
Location: London, England, UK
Building Type: Commercial
Size: 65340 sq.ft.
Access: Accessible, Private
Designers/Manufacturers of Record:
Commissioned by: Trevor Bowen, Barkers
Landscape Architect: Ralph Hancock
Architect: Bernard George
2008-2009 Restoration: Conservation Officer, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, English Heritage, Colwyn Foulkes and Randle Siddeley
The Roof Gardens Head Gardener: David Lewis
All the Info:
View the Kensington Roof Gardens (The Roof Gardens, Derry & Toms) project profile to see ALL of the Photos and Additional Information about this particular project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.
Project of the Week Video Feature
Watch the Kensington Roof Gardens (The Roof Gardens, Derry & Toms) Project of the Week Video below or see it on our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube:
Greenroofs.com Project of the Week 5/07/18 video photo credits: Courtesy of Something Different London; Virgin Limited Edition; Dave Walker’s Derry and Toms Roof Garden Postcard, Trevor Bowen and Miss Diana Wynyard 1940s, and Spanish Garden from the Trevor Bowen Estate from The Library Time Machine of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library; A Spanish garden on a roof in London, A plan of the roof gardens in a 1950s promotional pamphlet, and Queen Mary visiting the roof gardens from the House of Fraser Archive at the University of Glasgow Library; @theroofgardens (Instagram account now closed); Derry’s Kensington, A Garden in the Sky, and Sun Pavilion Derry Gardens from Parks and Gardens UK; Derry & Toms 26.JPG by Edwardx, Own work licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons; Kensington_roof_gardens_tent.jpg by flickr user Bryce Edwards CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons; and Kensington_roof_gardens_window.JPG by Tomhannen at English Wikipedia Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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