Inventory Site Record

Roper's Gardens * (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Roper's Gardens were created as a public amenity on a bomb site following destruction of the buildings in 1941. The name recalls the fact that the land was part of the gift of Sir Thomas More to his daughter Margaret on her marriage to William Roper. The gardens were designed by landscape architect Peter Shepheard and opened in 1964 with a long raised terrace of sheltered seating overlooking areas of lawn, with shrubbery, flower beds and trees. Among the sculptural works is an unfinished relief by Jacob Epstein, who had a studio near here from 1909-14, and the centrepiece of the garden is The Awakening by Gilbert Ledward.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Roper's Orchard
Site location:
Chelsea Embankment/Old Church Street/Ropers Gardens
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: Sloane Square (District, Circle) then bus.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.rbkc.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

The site of the public gardens was part of the marriage gift of Sir Thomas More to his daughter Margaret on her marriage to William Roper in 1521 and was once an orchard. The buildings here were destroyed by a parachute mine on 17 April 1941 and the small sunken garden was created on the bomb damaged area, the foundation stone laid by Cllr Lady Heath, Mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea on 11 March 1964. The design was by Peter Shepheard of Bridgwater Shepheard and Epstein.

There are a number of sculptural works in the garden, including The Awakening by Gilbert Ledward (1888-1960) surrounded by flowerbed and an unfinished stone relief by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), which stands on the site of his studios, where he worked from 1909-1914. The fragment was set by Stephen Gardiner and was unveiled by Sir Caspar John in the 1970s. Roper's Garden has a long terrace of sheltered seating and in the lower area are two slightly raised lawns, with shrub areas and paving at each end, that to the west currently bare. Trees planted when the garden was laid out include one that commemorates Gunji Koizumi, father of British Judo (1885-1965) as well as another planted by 'The Men of the Trees' London Branch.

Gilbert Ledward was born in Chelsea, son of sculptor Richard Arthur Ledward, studying sculpture at the Royal College of Art, where he later taught as professor of sculpture (1927-1929). The Awakening was modelled on Ledward’s wife Margery in 1915 and was exhibited in 1916 as ‘Regeneration’, one of his first works The bronze version was cast from the plaster in 1922-1923 and was exhibited at Battersea Park in the LCC’s exhibition Sculpture in the Open Air in 1960 before being installed in the centre of Roper’s Gardens. Another sculpture by Ledward in LB Kensington & Chelsea is the Venus Fountain in Sloane Square (q.v.),

In 2018, as part of a ‘Compiling the Record’ campaign, HE in partnership with the Gardens Trust (TGT) invited nominations from members of TGT and the general public for post-war landscapes that might be added to the NHLE in order to widen the knowledge base and seek protection for a category of landscape hitherto deemed to be under-represented on the Register. A shortlist of 25 cases was selected by an expert panel comprised of external and internal partners to go forward to full assessment for registration. This shortlist included Roper's Gardens, which have now been registered at Grade II.

The reasons for this NHLE designation include the site's historic interest: 'as a particularly good example of an urban communal garden of the post-war period. The utilisation of the basements to the bomb-destroyed terrace gives both a tangible link to the site’s history and screens the garden from the busy Chelsea Embankment.' Its design interest resides in being 'an important example of the restrained, contextual and carefully-composed garden designs of Peter Shepheard, a leading practitioner of the period who combined architecture, planning and landscape design over the course of a long and successful career.' The survival of the designed landscape is also noted: 'the garden survives particularly well, with all key structural elements designed by Shepheard remaining intact. There have been new features introduced, including the Jacob Epstein relief sculpture, however, the later additions have been thoughtfully integrated and make their own contribution to the interest of the garden.' Finally it has Group value in bringing together and offering views out to nearby listed buildings, Chelsea Old Church and Crosby Hall, and Ledward’s ‘Awakening’, which has also been listed at LBII.

Sources consulted:

Thames Conservation Area Proposals Statement; RB Kensington Park Archive

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ270775 (527040,177560)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
RB Kensington & Chelsea
Site management:
Leisure Services, Parks and Open Spaces
Peter Shepheard, Bridgwater Shepheard and Epstein
Listed structures:
LBII: The Awakening, Gilbert Ledward
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II
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:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area (Thames)
Other LA designation:
Area of Metropolitan Importance. Thames Policy Area

Roper's Gardens *

Roper's Gardens - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 07/09/20 11:20

Click a photo to enlarge.

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