The secret of the gardens at Ridgmount Gardens

Acacia tree in full leaf.

The golden acacia tree is a keynote of the garden.

By Frances Taylor This short piece about the gardens is an adaptation of an article written by a resident of Ridgmount Gardens and published in about 2001 in Ridgmount Review, the former magazine of the Ridgmount Gardens Residents’ Association. Her article tells us not only about the history of the gardens but also gives a lively sense of a resident’s appreciation of the gardens as part of her life. Much of what follows is lifted word for word from her account. 

The gardens at Ridgmount Gardens were formerly the site of stables behind the Gower Street houses which were built in 1776. Luckily the ascent of the motor car was not foreseen when the stables fell out of use, or they might have been replaced with garages. Instead, they made way for the first of many open spaces in Bloomsbury to be turned into gardens. The gardens were designed in 1895 by Alexander Merten and their design reflected the formality and symmetry of the then new Ridgmount Gardens flats overlooking them, developed six years earlier by the Middle Class Dwellings Company.

This lovely strip of, now mature, private garden is an oasis of green in a very built-up part of Fitzrovia and graces the area for all who live near it. It is also home to a variety of wildlife including blue tits, wrens and squirrels, and some years ago gave short-stay hospitality to seven redwings that had flown in from Russia.

Residents of the flats have keys to the gardens and can sit out in them or take their children there to play. But perhaps the gardens are most appreciated by those with flats overlooking them, to whom they offer a beautiful and constantly changing natural scene: bare branches in winter, pink and white hawthorn blossom in spring, the radiance of a golden acacia in summer. The gardens benefit from the fact that they back onto the gardens of the houses in Gower Street, which have their own planting, giving greater depth to this quite narrow strip. From the Gower Street gardens rise a number of trees including towering plane trees which add height to the spectacle and deck the sky with their constantly moving leaves and dangling pom-poms.

The writer of the Ridgmount Review account says that every garden should have its secret and the secret which intrigued her was a mysterious door set in the wall of the gardens. That door has now gone but there is a new, less romantic, secret. Half-hidden near the back of the gardens is a compost heap where residents of the flats can recycle their vegetable waste!

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