Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London

From the 17th century to now: How did Duncan Terrace & Colebrooke Row Gardens develop through the years?

Brief early history

  • 1603

    The Gardens have huge historical significance – they follow the route of the New River, which supplied London with fresh drinking water for nearly 300 years, during the 17th and 18th centuries. it was enclosed in 1861 and the southern part, Duncan Terrace Gardens, was planted as a garden in 1893.

  • 1893

    The Gardens form a long site divided into two main segments, Duncan Terrace Gardens and Colebrooke Row Gardens. The southernmost section, Duncan Terrace Gardens, was laid out by the Metropolitan Parks and Gardens Association and first opened as a public garden in 1893.

The design was developed by Fanny Rollo Wilkinson, the first woman landscape gardener, whose planting scheme included weeping willows over a winding path, and was intended to be reminiscent of the New River that was once above the ground. 

The blocks of tufa stone, a type of limestone, that is now set into the banks along the edge of the path in Colebrooke Row Gardens (the more northern garden) was probably part of her original design. Colebrooke Row Gardens returned into public ownership and was not re-landscaped until 1951.


  • 2008

    Duncan Terrace Gardens was replanted with over 1000 flowering shrubs, herbaceous perennials, ferns, bulbs and trees in 2008. The planting scheme was designed by remapp Landscape Architects in collaboration with the Community and Islington Parks. The design was intended to provide a changing and seasonal character to the Gardens meaning that they could offer a very different experience at different times of the year. The Friends Group has built on this philosophy and the Gardens continue to be developed and managed by the Group, supported by L.B.I.

  • 2009

    The Gardens won the Award for Design Excellence sponsored by the Business Design Centre.

  • 2013

    We honoured the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by planting a Prunus Tai-Haku, a flowering cherry, in Colebrooke Row Gardens and a multi-stemmed Silver Birch, Betula Utilis Jacquemontii, var Greyswood Ghost in the Duncan Terrace Gardens. The tree plantings were recorded in the Diamond Jubilee Royal Record and presented to her Majesty the Queen.

  • 2016

    The Gardens were featured in The Telegraph as one of the best secret gardens in London. 

  • 2018/2019

  • 2020/2021

  • 2022/2023

The Friends’ group now looks after the Gardens in partnership with Islington Parks. The planting of the Gardens has continued to be enriched and developed, as we respond to climate change, biodiversity loss and the need for sustainable spaces.

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