The Roof Gardens 2018

Closure

On 3rd January 2018, Virgin Limited Edition announced that they were closing the doors of The Roof Gardens with immediate effect. According to their website, the gardens had faced unpredictable market conditions and were a challenge to remain profitable.

The fate of the Gardens post-Virgin is unclear. They are, of course Grade II listed and as such are afforded protection from any changes to their structure. The mature trees, planted by Ralph nearly eighty years ago, all have preservation orders. The local authority, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea also play a key role in the protection of the gardens. Their planning and conservation department have worked closely with Virgin Limited Edition and were instrumental in granting permission for the installation of the Green Plaque that recognises and commemorates Ralph’s creation of the gardens. The plaque sits proudly next to that of Trevor Bowen whose vision for a Garden in the Sky were realised by Ralph in May 1938.

It is difficult to see what lays ahead for the Roof Gardens, the restaurant and nightclub. Sir Richard Branson had made them into one of the most unique dinning and party venues in London. As well as countless wedding receptions and corporate events, the Roof Gardens hosted the star-studded annual pre-Wimbledon Party for many years. In 2007, Sir Richard Branson with former US Vice President Al Gore used them to announce a new global warming initiative.

In June 2011, Sir Richard celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the venue with a spectacular birthday party. Guests included Barbara Hulanicki, founder of Biba and a previous guardian of the Roof Gardens, and on 9 May 2013 a party was held to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Roof Gardens.

At the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show David Lewis, The then Roof Gardens Head Gardener recreated the Spanish Garden in miniature form. He was awarded a bronze medal for his efforts.

The Roof Gardens have had an incredible history. From their unveiling in May 1938; to holding fundraisers for service personnel during World War Two; The Biba and Glam Rock era to becoming a world class venue. And although the future of the Roof Gardens is unclear, one thing is certain and that is they are and will continue to be one of London’s most spectacular and extraordinary landmarks eighty years after Ralph Hancock created them.


A Private Viewing

On Thursdsy 8 February, members of the Hancock family were invited by Virgin Limited Edition to visit the Roof Gardens. Ralph’s granddaughter, Angela led the party on a private tour of this remarkable venue. The following photographs are a selection of images taken during their tour.

 
   

The two photographs above are of the Spanish Garden. Their pink colour echoes the original shade they were painted in 1938.

  
The Court of Fountains from the Spanish Garden. In the distance is the Well of St Teresa.

   
The flamingoes, all of whom are being re-homed are seen here in the stream within the Woodland Garden. The lush lawn, the former Tea Pavilion and mature trees would have the casual observer believe that they were at ground level.

The Tudor Courtyard. 
During winter months they were enclosed in a large purpose built marque. This allowed the courtyard to be used as an extension to the permanent structures.


The Green Plaque commemorating the Roof Gardens designer, Ralph Hancock. 
The plaque was supported by Peter and Sheila (née Hancock) Dure Smith and was unveiled in January 2012.