Despite Durand Gardens being one of the most sought after and well preserved areas within the boundaries of this website there is very little to be found about the history of this funny shaped enclave. The most comprehensive overview is found over at London Gardens Online and since it contains more information than I’ve been able to find by knitting together separate sources I think it best to use their guide rather than attempt my own.
London Gardens Online is to thank (and holds all copyright) for the following overview:
Stockwell was one of the earliest hamlets established in the area and was located around Stockwell Green. The name derives from the woodlands (‘stocks’) and natural springs (‘wells’), which undoubtedly contributed to the establishment of a settlement here. A Manor at Stockwell was granted a charter in the C13th and the eastern boundary of the manorial lands was probably between Durand Gardens and Stockwell Park Road. Much of the area remained farmland until its early-mid C19th development although wealthy merchants had began to build villas here in the C18th. The grand town houses of Durand Gardens were built gradually from 1840 onwards and represent a range of buildings, including terraces, semi-detached and detached houses. Originally called The Grove, it was renamed Durand Gardens in 1893 after Sir Mortimer Durand who established the dividing line between India and Afghanistan that year. The earlier houses exhibit Neo-Classical detailing, with those of the 1890s and later influenced by Queen Anne style and Arts and Crafts. The land was part of the estate owned by the Darby family, who were descended from Abraham Darby (1678-1717), the pioneering ironfounder who first used coke to fuel his Coalbrookdale Furnace in Shropshire in 1709, one of the innovations that contributed to the Industrial Revolution.
The houses overlook the central garden, which was laid out by the Darby Estate for the use of residents of the surrounding houses, the Darby family retaining ownership. It is an irregular-shaped site possibly as a result of being a plague pit in 1665. The Stamford Map of 1868 shows the houses of The Grove surrounding a well laid out garden with areas of grass, meandering paths, shrubs beds and trees and a pond in the south east corner. In 1928 the owner of the garden was Mrs F M Cope Darby and the residents of the surrounding houses paid a garden rate for its maintenance. At that time it was described as ‘laid out as an ornamental garden with shrubberies and some well-grown trees’. The garden’s iron railings were removed as part of the war effort in WWII and after the war the garden became neglected, the Darby Estate having ceased to be the ground landlord.
In the mid 1960s the garden was acquired by Mr Pat Bedford who lived at No. 17 Durand Gardens and access by other residents ceased. An antiques dealer, he used the garden to exercise his guard dogs. In 1968 his sister-in-law Zdenka Korincova became his housekeeper and took on responsibility for the gardens until 1985, allegedly with the help of a large goat.
Number 17 Durand Gardens
In the late 1980s when No. 17 came up for sale it included sole rights to the garden, which was then challenged by other residents of Durand Gardens. As a result the estate agent, Stephen Morgan, purchased the garden in order to sell the house separately. He planned to establish a sports club with swimming pool on the site, but this was prohibited due to the garden’s listing under the London Squares Preservation Act 1931. Morgan then became bankrupt and the Durand Gardens Association was able to purchase the site for £5,000.
Shortly after acquiring the garden, the Association replaced the iron railings at a cost of c.£7,700 and it has continued to look after the gardens, including creating a path system based on the original mid C19th layout. The garden is now maintained as a woodland garden and there are numerous mature trees including lime, probably once pleached to create a hedge in Victorian times, silver birch, horse-chestnut, pedunculate oak, tree-of-heaven, and a fine black walnut tree near the garden’s entrance. A dip in the ground may have been due to a WWII Anderson Shelter here. In the spring there area fine displays of bluebells and daffodils, and there are plans to introduce native species that attract butterflies and birds.
Durand Gardens On Maps…
The map above is “Laurie and Whittle New Map of London with its Environs, almost all of the streets that we know so well had not yet been built including Durand Gardens, the area was mostly open countryside.
“Cary’s New Plan Of London And Its Vicinity” shows the area another twenty eight years later in 1837, although many streets to the north have popped up Durand Gardens is still a large open space.
Durand Gardens is still not visible on Laurie’s Map of London 1844. There is something labelled ‘The Retreat’ presumably a countryside place of relaxation, possibly the same location or very close to this rural lodge.
“1850. Cross’s New Plan Of London 1850″ shows The Grove (as Durand Gardens was originally known) suddenly spring into life taking the shape that we recognise today.
This is Cross’s New Plan of London 1861. It shows the same crudely drawn The Grove as on the previous Cross’s New Plan of London eleven years earlier.
The map above is a Lambeth Ward Map from 1876 showing the division between the Vauxhall Ward (light blue) and the North Brixton Ward (pink) Durand Gardens is labelled as The Grove.
Charles Booth’s Map of London Poverty research took him to Durand Gardens in 1895. The Map above is from 1898 and shows how Booth graded Durand Gardens. The key to what the colours mean can be seen to the right of the image. For more information on Charles Booth and the classification of poverty see here.
Durand Gardens can be seen here on this 1918 Ward Map. It is remarkable to note how much the area has built up over the years, especially when scrolling up to the 1809 map when this entire space was empty.
In September 1940 the government started to collect and collate information relating to damage sustained during bombing raids. Durand Gardens emerged relatively unscathed in comparison to surrounding areas however it did take quite a few hits as you can see above. I will post more about Durand Gardens in the wars over on ‘Our streets at war – A street by street guide’ shortly.
Durand Gardens in photographs…
Nos 24 and 26 Durand Gardens are grade II listed, details are as follows:
Circa 1840 tall pair, each 3 storeys and basement, 2 windows in main block; set back 2-storey entrance bay. Stucco with incised lines and rusticated quoins. Enriched cornice below bracketed eaves soffit of hipped slate roof with central chimney wall. Sash windows with glazing bars in moulded architraves, console bracketed cornices on ground floor. Projecting mutuled cornice at first floor cill level. Entrances up 6 steps. No 24 has door and fanlight of circa 1900 in rusticated panel framed in Doric order; blank wall above and a narrow right addition. Similar treatment to 4-panel door of No 26 but modern window inserted.
Nos 25 and 31 Durand Gardens are grade II listed, details are as follows:
Mid C19 pairs, each house 2 storeys and basement, 2 windows. Stock brick. Pilasters with stuccoed capitals define wider inner bay. Hipped slated roof with eaves soffit and central chimney wall. Stuccoed basement. Eared moulded architraves to first floor windows; architraves, with console bracketed cornices, and patterned cast iron guards, to ground floor windows. All double hung sashes, Nos 27 and 29 with margin lights, No 31 with vertical bars. Seven steps to half-glazed 4-panel doors set back behind stuccoed entablature surrounds.
Nos 28 and 30 Durand Gardens are grade II listed, details are as follows:
Mid C19 villas, each 2 storeys and basement, 3 windows. Stock brick, stucco frieze, cornice with paired brackets, blocking course. Slated. roof with end chimneys. Sash windows, No 28 with glazing bars, No 30 with margin lights, in moulded architraves with bracketed cills; console bracketed cornices on ground floor. Seven steps to half-glazed 4-panel doors set back behind classical surround with round-arched opening.
Nos 33 and 35 Durand Gardens are grade II listed, details are as follows:
Mid C19 pair. Each house had a separate block of 2 storeys and basement, 2 windows, linked by one-storey paired entrances. Stock brick. Slated roof with deep eaves soffit. Moulded architraves with cornices to first floor sash windows with glazing bars. Ground floor windows have pilasters and entablature, projecting cills and cast iron guards. Inner ground floor rounded bow with cornice holds 2 windows, stuccoed basement. Seven steps to door of 2 fancy panels well set back behind classical porch with round-arched entrance.