Secret Gardens: The Jellicoe Roof Garden

Hidden above the clouds of Guildford lies a water garden sitting on the top of a department store. 50 feet high and designed by the leading landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, this garden retreat once boasted a three story waterfall. Now a House of Fraser store, the¬†original garden was installed on top of what was then Harvey’s department store, by Sir Geoffrey.¬†He is responsible for many famous landscape projects worldwide, but several of his best known are much closer to home; the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, the Sutton Place Garden in Guildford, the canal at RHS Wisley and Horsted. The Jellicoe Roof Garden remains one of his more memorable designs.

Image: The Roof Garden in the 1950’s

Jellicoe wanted to unite heaven and earth through his sky garden, he was inspired by the launch of the Russian space satellite “Sputnik” with orbited the earth. They installed a viewing platform to look across the garden, designed with curved lines and circular shapes. The public could walk through the pond garden on stepping stones, and a waterfall cascaded down the south side of the building.

During the eighties the garden was overgrown and fell into disrepair and was eventually closed. The store was taken over by House of Fraser in 2000, and restoration plans were put into place including a new atrium at the front of the store. The garden was restored with new planting mainly consisting of herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses. Thanks also to a condition of a new planning application which stated that the garden must be preserved, and thus it was saved for the public. An enthusiastic head gardener saw the garden restored.

Image: The Roof Garden in the 1950’s

A Grade II listing from English Heritage followed, which means the garden will stay to be enjoyed by generations to come.