Ralph Hancock F.R.H.S. Landscape Artist
- Written by Robin Hull
Derry & Toms roof garden
It was during this incredibly successful period that Hancock designed and created the biggest roof garden in Europe at Derry & Toms in Kensington. This time Hancock was to build just three gardens, each with its own unique style and planting.
The Tudor Garden featured Hancock’s trademark herringbone brickwork pathways, impressive Tudor-inspired arches and a wrought-iron hand pump. The planting was very formal and traditional.
The was a splendid Spanish Garden, based on the gardens of the Alhambra in southern Spain, planted with palm trees and with a court of fountains as well as Moorish colonnades.
Finally there was a Woodland Garden, built with a cascade and river, home to fish and ducks, and set out with trees and with manicured lawns.
Once again the logistics involved in the construction were impressive. Before planting and building could begin, a thick bitumastic base was laid on the bare roof, followed by a layer of loose brick and rubble, arranged in a fan-like pattern to aid drainage. On top of this was a 36-inch layer of topsoil, into which the planting was made. Water came from Derry & Toms’ own artesian wells 400 feet below.
They were completed in 1938 at a cost of £25,000. On opening day the gardens contained over 500 different varieties of trees and shrubs. Visitors were charged a shilling. The money raised that year was donated to the Queen's Institute of District Nursing and over the next 30 years £120,000 was raised for local hospitals.