Tag Archives: Roof Garden

The Roof Gardens 1979: for your pleasure

Strictly speaking I know we should have Kensal Road part 3 this week but I’m a little bit under the weather after Christmas and these pictures recently fell into my lap courtesy of my volunteer, BC, who is going through our collection of former planning photos with a fine tooth comb, looking for visual truffles.

They come from a pair of photo albums, undated and unattached to any records. But it was only a bit of minor detective work to spot the sign for the 28th Kensington Antiques Fair and work out that the year was 1979.



I didn’t even have to go to my transport correspondent to work out the date from the buses. There is Barker’s, still Barker’s at this point, and the Derry and Toms Building.

Although by this time Derry and Toms was no more.



Biba to, had been and gone, and BHS occupied the eastern part of the building. You can see the foliage at the top of the building indicating the presence of the Roof Gardens which had also survived.

In 1979 we were looking forward into an era of conspicuous consumption and people in London being comfortable about money and the display of spending it. Looking backward, you had  the disturbances of punk rock and the new wave and before them the glam era of Biba and Roxy Music. A good year to have some pictures of the Roof Gardens in its new-ish incarnation as a venue for dining and dancing.

Arrive in your nice big car.



The staff are waiting for you.



And the relatively innocuous  lift.



To take you to a more sumptuous entrance.



Regine’s. In the Biba era wasn’t it the Rainbow Rooms?

A sumptuous dining room awaited.



Soon to be filled.



BC said something to the effect of how many bubble perms could you fit into one room? Several, apparently. (I spotted a couple more in a TV programme I watched this week from 1979. Were they ubiquitous?)

After dining, there was dancing.



The joint was jumping (quietly).

But let’s not forget the main reason we came here.



Yes, it’s that garden again.

At this time I think they hadn’t quite got around to the day light potential of the gardens, so we can see some pictures of it more or less deserted.



With many of the old features extant.



The gardens still have that tranquil atmosphere, as if they were far away from a city street.



The wildlife still enjoys the familiar habitat.



Flags still fly over the sunny garden.



And there are still hidden corners.



I’ve looked at the gardens before in this post which combines its real and imaginary history, and this one (one of my early flights of fancy, but the pictures do show the garden empty). There is a certain timeless quality to the gardens. You can still go there, as I think I’ve pointed out before. But would I want to revisit what remains for me a childhood/adolescent memory? Probably not.

But don’t let me stop you.


Just as I was about to publish the post I saw a small item  in the news, namely that Virgin, the current owners of the Roof Gardens, had decided to close them. Since 1981 the gardens have been used as an events venue. They’re listed of course so they’ll be used again. But they’ll be quiet again for a while.

Original Postscript

I wrote this just as I was coming down with a cold and finished it just as the cold is coming to an end. I gave myself last week off as I was feeling rough and I’d read another of those articles about how blogging is dead. (On a tablet – I was too ill to turn on my laptop.) I hope it isn’t, I’m just getting the hang of it. I’m certainly going to carry on for a while and hopefully we’ll be back on Kensal Road next week.

The lost department store

The great days of the department store are probably over. There are survivors including two of the best known, Harrods in Kensington and Peter Jones in Chelsea. But the time when every city and every large London suburb had its own individual department store is gone.

The old names are not forgotten. In Kensington High Street the two great buildings which were home to the two department stores Barker’s and Derry and Tom’s are still there. The Barker’s building has a number of retail businesses and is also home to Associated Newspapers. The Derry and Toms building contains three separate stores and of course the Roof Garden is still a going concern. The Roof Garden deserves a post of its own and we’ll come back to it at a later point.

But I remember a third store on Kensington High Street as I’m sure many others will. I was dragged through all three of them by my parents at some point in the late 1960s. I remember the roof garden of course, a pushy salesman trying to foist a nasty pullover on me (my mother resisted all his efforts) and a fascinating vacuum tube payment system which sucked your money away at an alarming speed and returned your change just as quickly. That happened I think in the third of the great stores of Kensington High Street – Ponting’s.

Here are two photos from 1971 of the arcade which leads to Kensington High Street tube showing on one side an entrance to Derry and Tom’s (now the side entrance to Marks and Spencer) and on the other the display windows of Ponting’s.

As you can see, the Grand Removal Sale has already begun.  So what did Ponting’s look  like? This photo is from the 1950s.

The “House for Value” was located on the corner of Wright’s Lane. Twenty or so years later the sign is still in place but the closing down sale is on.

Note the sign for the roof garden in the top left of the picture.

Inside Ponting’s everything was for sale.

Some departments were busier than others.

By this point the House of Fraser owned all three stores. The John Barker Company had acquired Ponting’s in 1907 and Derry and Tom’s in 1920. It was they who built the architecturally demanding Derry and Tom’s building (1929-31, with the Roof Garden being completed in 1938) along with their own flagship building (1936 -1958 work being interrupted by the war). Ponting’s also had many improvements and some expansion but was never quite as prestigious as its two neighbours. It was the first to go, a victim of House of Fraser’s rationalisation programme in 1970. Derry and Tom’s followed shortly afterwards in 1973 but the building remains. After a short spell as the Kensington Super Store the Ponting’s main building was redeveloped in 1976-78.  The only section remaining is the building around the station arcade where La Senza and Accessorize are currently located. (Ironically it was the expense of developing the western side of the arcade which took the original business into liquidation.)

When I first started working in Kensington High Street I had to do some research to even work out where it had been. But although it is now lost many still remember the golden age of shopping on Kensington High Street.  Here is a Ponting’s invoice from 1930:

And finally an image of Pontings from an even earlier time, an interior from 1913 when retail therapy as we know it was still in its infancy.

Next week I’ll be doing another vanished shop, but quite a different one from Ponting’s.

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