Kensington Roof Gardens

Coordinates: 51°30′4″N 0°11′31″W / 51.50111°N 0.19194°W / 51.50111; -0.19194
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The Roof Gardens
  • The Roof Gardens
  • Derry and Toms Roof Gardens
  • Kensington Roof Gardens
Derry & Toms 26.JPG
Kensington Roof Gardens is located in Kensington
Kensington Roof Gardens
TypeRoof garden
LocationKensington High Street
London, W8
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°30′4″N 0°11′31″W / 51.50111°N 0.19194°W / 51.50111; -0.19194
Area6000 m2
FounderTrevor Bowen
DesignerRalph Hancock
DesignationGrade II
Public transit accessLondon Underground High Street Kensington

Kensington Roof Gardens (formerly known as Derry and Toms Roof Gardens and later The Roof Gardens) is a private roof garden covering 6,000 square metres (65,000 sq ft) on top of the former Derry & Toms building on Kensington High Street in central London.

Originally opened in 1938, the gardens were open to the public until January 2018 when the leaseholder, Virgin Limited Edition, was unable to reach an agreement with the freeholder about renewal of the lease.[1]


Derry and Toms new Art Deco department store was opened in 1933. The gardens were laid out between 1936 and 1938 by Ralph Hancock, a landscape architect who had just created the "Gardens of the Nations" on the 11th floor of the RCA Building in New York, on the instructions of Trevor Bowen (then vice-president of Barkers, the department store giant that owned the site and constructed the building). They cost £25,000 to create and visitors were charged 1 shilling to enter. Money raised was donated to local hospitals and £120,000 was raised during the next 30 years.[2]

The building housed the department store Derry and Toms until 1973, and then Biba until 1975. In 1978, the garden's Art Deco tea pavilion was redeveloped into a nightclub, in 1981 Virgin Limited Edition bought the lease to the roof garden and the pavilion, and in 2001 Virgin turned the pavilion into the Babylon restaurant.[1]

The more than 100 trees in the garden were given a tree preservation order by Kensington & Chelsea council in 1976,[3] the roof garden buildings were Grade II* listed by English Heritage in 1981 as part of a listing given the whole building,[4] and the garden itself was given a Grade II listing in 1998 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.[5]

Virgin ceased its operation of the Roof Gardens in January 2018 and the site is currently closed to the public. It is unknown when it will reopen.[1][6]

The gardens[edit]

It is divided into three themed gardens:

The Kensington Roof Gardens are barely visible from Kensington High Street.
  • a Spanish garden, in a Moorish style based upon the Alhambra in Spain, with fountains, vine-covered walkways and Chusan palms;
  • a Tudor style garden, characterised by its archways, secret corners and hanging wisteria. Roses, lilies and lavender contribute the rich summer scent to the garden;
  • an English water garden, with over 100 species of trees, a stream, and a garden pond that is the home to pintail ducks and four flamingos called Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks. There are over 30 different species of trees in the water garden, including trees from the original planting over sixty years ago. The roof was designed to bear the load of one hundredweight per square foot (approximately 500 kilogrammes per square metre) with a drainage layer of brick and clinker beneath the soil.[7] Although they are on a rooftop, the trees were made the subject of tree preservation orders in 1976.



  1. ^ a b c Ellis, David (5 January 2018). "12 gorgeous photos of the Kensington Roof Gardens". Evening Standard. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  2. ^ Ralph Hancock F.R.H.S. – Landscape Artist - Derry and Toms roof garden, Parks & Gardens UK. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  3. ^ Tree Preservation Orders in street names starting K. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Linked 2018-02-26
  4. ^ Historic England, "Marks and Spencers, British Home Stores and The Roof Garden (1222781)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 6 November 2018
  5. ^ Historic England, "The Roof Garden, 99 High Street, Kensington (1001406)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 6 November 2018
  6. ^ "The Roof Gardens - Now Closed". Virgin Limited Edition. Virgin Group. Archived from the original on 21 May 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  7. ^ Peel, D. W. 1960. A Garden in the Sky. W. H. Allen