Treasures of London – Ropers Garden and ‘The Awakening’…

Newly awarded upgraded heritage status, Ropers Garden in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, was created in the wake of World War II.

The buildings which had formerly stood here were destroyed on 17th April, 1941, thanks to a parachute mine.

The first gardens were planted on the site by the Chelsea Society but these were then redesigned by Peter Shepheard in 1960.

Shepheard used the basements of the terraced housing previously on the site to create a sunken garden, maintaining a link with the history of the site and reducing the noise of traffic from nearby Chelsea Embankment.

The centrepiece of the now Grade II-listed gardens – which were recently added to the Register of Parks and Gardens – is a sculpture called “The Awakening”. The work of Gilbert Ledward, who lived and worked in the area, it depicts a bronze standing nude figure of a woman (apparently modelled on the artist’s wife and cast in the 1920s).

The sculpture (pictured at the top with Chelsea Old Church in the background) was recently added to the garden’s Grade II listing.

Other features of the garden include an unfinished stone relief by Jacob Epstein (pictured, right) who had a studio nearby in the early 20th century (the sculpture was unveiled in 1970) and a cherry tree which commemorates Gunji Koizumi the father of British Judo (1885-1965).

And the garden’s name? That comes from the history of the land on which it lies – once an orchard and part of the marriage gift of Sir Thomas More to his daughter Margaret and son-in-law William Roper in 1521.

PICTURES: Top – David Adams; Right – Andy Scott (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

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