Inventory Site Record

Rochester Square (Camden)

Brief Description

Rochester Square is a roughly square plot of land to the rear of a C19th terrace of houses, enclosed by a privet hedge and barbed wire fence. The houses were completed by the 1840s as part of the development of the Camden Estate, but the central area was leased as a nursery ground from as early as 1825. This use as a nursery continued into the early C21st, the last tenants being Strouds of London, but the business had gone into decline by the 1980s. In 2016, the neglected site was purchased by two local residents who have revitalised the square, bringing it into use as a sustainable, community and arts space.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Rochester Square Nurseries
Site location:
Rochester Square
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Private Open Land
Open to public?
Opening times:
check website for special events, pottery courses, classes
Special conditions:
Ceramics facilities
Open Days
Public transport:
London Overground: Camden Road. Tube: Camden Town (Northern). Bus: 29, 253, 274
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.rochestersquare.co.uk

Full Site Description

The land here was within the Prebendal Manor of Cantelowe, owned by the Canons of the Cathedral Church of St Paul since before the Conquest. In 1670 the lease was acquired by John Jeffreys, whose grand-daughter Elizabeth married Charles Pratt (1713-94), who was later created Baron Camden. Camden and his descendents began to develop the estate for housing from the early 1790s and Camden Town was completed by the 1880s. Rochester Square was built by the 1840s and the central area was leased for use as a nursery ground. By 1928 it is described as having glass houses, enclosed by a low wall with railings and a thick privet hedge.

In the 1960s until the 1980s the business at Rochester Square was variously described in official records as ‘Agricultural service facilities’, ‘Cultivation of plants for use in theatre’, and ‘Landscape Service Activities’, but it became best known for renting and supplying film props, in particular palms, for theatrical and television productions. It was said to have been a successful business during this period, with liveried delivery trucks coming and going from the square, and its customers included the ‘Carry On’ films and Elton John. 1986 accounts for Strouds refer to a ‘slump in the film production business’ and it was around or slightly after this period that Stroud’s activities at the square began a slow but terminal decline. As the film prop business wound down and eventually ceased, the land and buildings at Rochester Square nursery were neglected and became derelict. In its state of abandonment the site became a focal point for anti-social activities and later squatters began occupying the land and buildings. Evictions took place but the square was always swiftly reoccupied. In around 2013 a group who became known as Rochester Square Community or Come-Unity Garden inhabited the square, whose ambitious plans eventually proved unsuccessful.

In early 2016 local residents Francesca Anfossi and Eric Wragge decided to take on Rochester Square as a personal project and formed Rochester Square LLP to purchase the land from the owners. Since then, they have secured the site, completed extensive remediation including clearing out over 130 tonnes of debris, and as they assessed the feasibility of options for revitalising the square and bringing it back into use. A long term and sustainable plan has yet to be completed but is currently envisaged to include creating earth enveloped building(s) beneath the surface of the square to generate a commercial return, restoration or replacement of the buildings on the surface of the square, and removal of the concrete that covers most of the surface to make way for gardens and landscaping. One of their early ambitions was that of establishing artistic collaborations and developing creative projects at the nursery. This is now well underway with ceramic facilities installed for recreational use by artists and others. Their website has the following synopsis of their approach:

"Rochester Square wants to bring people and communities together through ceramic facilities and socially-engaging projects. Emphasising the fascinating system of recycling clay: where after firing at a low temperature, the cups and pots are still so fragile that you can smash them on the ground after use and turn them back into the soil, which can then be used again to create new ceramic objects. This idea guides us in our approach to the development of activities at RS: a creative cycle from the earth (clay) to plants (garden) to plates (food). For us, there is great meaning in creating a space that can become a catalyst for people to meet each other through the powerful yet simple tools of making things together."

Sources consulted:

Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; Sally Williams, 'Notes on the History of Rochester Square Nursery Ground, Camden New Town', 2016 (research for Rochester Square LLP, see www.rochestersquare.co.uk/history)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ294843 (529437,184338)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Rochester Square LLP
Site management:
Rochester Square LLP
1822, 1901
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Camden Square
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Private Open Space. London Squares Preservation Act of 1931

Rochester Square

Rochester Square, June 2017. Photograph Sally Williams

Rochester Square, greenhouses,  June 2017. Photograph Sally Williams
Rochester Square, Open Day, 24 June 2017. Photograph Sally Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.