From the 17th century to nowadays: How did the Gardens develop throughout the years?

Brief early history

  • 1603

    The Gardens have a historical significance – the New River, which brought water into North London from Hertfordshire, ran the length of the Gardens during the 17th and 18th century. It was enclosed in 1861 and the space was planted as gardens in 1871.

  • 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 Wilkinson 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 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 re-landcaped in 1951.


  • 2008

    Duncan Terrace Gardens were replanted with over 1000 flowering shrubs, herbaceous perennials, ferns, bulbs and trees. The planting scheme creates a changing and seasonal character to the Gardens meaning that they can offer a very different experience at different times of the year.

  • 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. 

The Friends’ group now looks after the two long beds in Colebrooke Row, both of which have been extensively re-planted.