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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.
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Greenroofs.com Project of the Week 5/07/18 video photo credits: Courtesy of Something Different London: http://www.somethingdifferent.london/kensington-roof-gardens/; Virgin Limited Edition: http://www.virginlimitededition.com/en/the-roof-gardens; 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: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/the-adventures-of-jerry-cornelius-at-derry-and-toms-famous-roof-gardens/; 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: https://universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/derry-and-toms-roof-gardens/; @theroofgardens (Instagram account now closed); Derry & Toms 26.JPG: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Derry_%26_Toms_26.JPG by Edwardx, Own work licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en via Wikimedia Commons; Kensington_roof_gardens_tent.jpg: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Roof_Gardens#/media/File:Kensington_roof_gardens_tent.jpg by flickr user Bryce Edwards: CC BY-SA 2.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ via Wikimedia Commons; and Kensington_roof_gardens_window.JPG: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Roof_Gardens#/media/File:Kensington_roof_gardens_window.JPG by Tomhannen at English Wikipedia Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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Vijaya Iyer and Jeff Smith’s German Village home in Columbus, Ohio, features a rooftop garden and Japanese bath