A Royal visit
King Henry’s Walk Garden was created by the local community, for the local community. But, today it received a Royal visitor when the Duchess of Cambridge met with volunteers to hear about the benefits of this beautiful community garden.
Kate was shown around the garden to see the diversity of plants and wildlife that exist in this urban green space. She also joined in on a winter planting workshop, bird box building session and made a pizza in the garden’s kitchen.
During a session run by The Garden Classroom making bird feeders, Her Royal Highness asked the Year 3 children from St Jude & St Paul’s primary school children if they liked learning outside. “And what’s your favourite thing to do outside in the garden?” Kate asked. One little boy replied: “I like getting dirty and finding dirty stuff.”
Once derelict, the gardens opened to the public at the end of 2007 and gives local residents the chance to grow their own vegetables and flowers, and relax in a peaceful oasis. It’s run by volunteers, with support from Islington Council, and also includes a small area of woodland, called Docwra’s Wood, which is unusual in this part of Islington.
The garden’s history is varied and for the most part unknown. Charles Booth’s London poverty map of around 1898 shows the area as a timber yard. But volunteers who manage the garden believe that from 1858 it was occupied by Thomas Docwra & Son, a contractor for gas, water and public works, that remained on the site until 1922. The name Docwra’s Buildings is still in use for a turning off King Henry’s Walk.
Docwra's Buildings, King Henry's Walk c1930 (Islington Local History Centre)
After this date, details about the site are scarce, but at some point it passed into the hands of the council and was turned into a park and rose garden. This was badly vandalised and was closed.
Between 2001 and 2005 it was used as temporary accommodation by St Jude’s & St Paul’s School while their school was being rebuilt.
The site before works were carried out, just after the temporary classrooms for the St Jude’s & St Paul’s School were removed
The gardens under construction in 2007 (Friends of King Henry's Walk Gardens)
Then in 2004 the council began a consultation with local residents with a view to establishing a community or wildlife garden, and in May 2005 the Friends of volunteer group was formed to oversee the project and manage the new garden. Work began in early 2007 to construct the gardens we know and love today.
Since it opened, King Henry’s Walk Garden has won a number of awards, including the RHS National Certificate of Distinction in 2012, and London in Bloom’s Best Community Garden in 2008, 2009, and 2011.