Kensington Roof Gardens

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Part of the Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof Gardens (formerly known as Derry and Toms Roof Gardens) is a roof garden covering 6,000 m² (1.5 acres) of the top of the Derry and Toms building on Kensington High Street, in central London, near Kensington Gardens. The gardens, surrounding a large restaurant, are situated 30 metres above street level and provide a panoramic view over west London on a clear day.

The Kensington Roof Gardens are barely visible from Kensington High Street.

The gardens were laid out between 1936 and 1938 by Ralph Hancock, a landscape architect, on the instructions of Trevor Bowen (then vice-president of Barkers, the Kensington department store giant that owned the site and had constructed the building in 1932). The building housed the department store Derry and Toms until 1973, and then Biba until 1975.

The garden is split into three parts:

A tent in the Spanish garden
One of the many pink flamingos that live in the roof gardens

The gardens are not very widely known because they are not a tourist attraction, but are run as a restaurant and nightclub. The Roof Gardens have been owned by Sir Richard Branson since 1981, and, with Necker Island and two properties in Africa, they form part of the Virgin "Limited Edition".

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 Westland Whirlwind helicopter firing on a party of tea-drinking old ladies in a satire on the (then contemporary) Vietnam war. It is also the opening location in Moorcock's comic novel The Chinese Agent, featuring Jerry Cornell.

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