The Roof Gardens (formerly known as Derry and Toms Roof Gardens and Kensington Roof Gardens) is a garden covering 6,000 m² (1.5 acres) on top of the former Derry and Toms Building at 99 Kensington High Street in central London, in The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Access to the building is via Derry Street which branches off Kensington High Street. The Roof Gardens were the dream of Trevor Bowen, the vice president of John Barker & Co. In 1936 he employed landscape architect Ralph Hancock to realise his vision. The gardens took two years to build at a cost of £25,000 and opened to the public in May 1938. One shilling (approx 10c) was charged for entry which, over 30 years, raised over £120,000 for local charities. Access to the garden is now free. The gardens are open to the public unless pre-booked for a private event.
The depth of the soil is 18 inches (46 cm.) with drainage made from bricks and clinker over a waterproof membrane. Ralph Hancock brought in over 500 species of plants and shrubs and even imported rock from Pennsylvania for his alpine planting. There are seven trees which remain from this original planting and the gardens have been acknowledged as a place of ‘Specific Historical Interest’. The garden is planted on the 7th storey of an Art Deco-style former department store 100 ft.(30 m.) above street level. It has duck ponds, bridges, walks, trees, shrubs and secluded spots to sit whilst enjoying the peaceful surroundings. There is an English Woodland Garden with nearly 100 species of tree, a Spanish Garden with fountains and a Walled Tudor Garden. There is a flowing stream stocked with fish. Resident flamingos, Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks are a special attraction.
When I visited in 2010 on a day when there were very few visitors, I was privileged to have conversation with one of the gardeners who was very interested to know how we kept our gardens alive in Adelaide’s hot dry climate. I told him of the simple drip system set up in my garden and how, with the assistance of pre-set timers, the garden was being regularly watered.
Since 1981 The Roof Gardens have been rented from the owners by Sir Richard Branson.
A place of respite in a rather unique space.