The Roof Gardens (formerly known as Derry and Toms Roof Gardens and Kensington Roof Gardens) is a roof garden covering 6,000 m² (1.5 acres) on top of the former Derry and Toms building on Kensington High Street, in central London, in The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. They have for a long time been the largest roof garden in Europe, but was surpassed by the roof garden on the shopping mall Emporia in 2012. Facilities include a restaurant and club.
The gardens are not visible from Kensington High Street; however, the property can be identified by the Virgin flags flying from the top of the building. The gardens are open to the public unless pre-booked by a private party. They are accessible from Derry Street, through a doorway marked "99 Kensington High Street". The nearest tube station is High Street Kensington.
It is divided into three themed gardens:
Restaurant and Clubhouse:
- 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 woodland 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 woodland garden, including trees from the original planting over sixty years ago, despite having only a metre of soil in which to grow. Although they are on a rooftop, the trees were made the subject of tree preservation orders in 1976.
The gardens surround a two storey Clubhouse which hosts private events such as conferences and parties and a private members club for up to 600 guests open on Friday and Saturday nights, and are situated 30 metres (100 ft) above street level (on the 6th floor of the building) with a panoramic view over west London through windows in the walled edge.
In 2001 Babylon Restaurant was built on the 7th floor of The Roof Gardens, which now operates as part of the property. Babylon is open Monday to Sunday for lunch and Monday to Saturday for dinner. Guests can see the English Woodland Garden from the terrace, and the flamingo pond from the private dining room. Babylon offers view west from Richmond Deer Park
all the way round across South London to City Point in the east.
The Roof Gardens in Fiction:
The Derry and Toms Roof Gardens are a significant and recurrent location in the Jerry Cornelius stories written by Michael Moorcock. They are the setting for the opening scenes of the second Cornelius novel, A Cure for Cancer (1971), where Jerry encounters a helicopter firing on a party of tea-drinking old ladies in a satire on the (then contemporary) Vietnam
war. The gardens also feature as the setting for a musical and dance extravaganza in Lorna Hill's "No castanets at the Wells
". It is also the opening location in Moorcock's comic novel The Chinese Agent, featuring Jerry Cornell.