Home » Human Life » Room for a View ? The Battle of Island Gardens

Room for a View ? The Battle of Island Gardens

A View of Greenwich from the River circa 1750-2 by Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) 1697-1768

A View of Greenwich from the River circa 1750-2 Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) 1697-1768

Source Tate Museum

Island Gardens  lies at the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs overlooking the river Thames, visible from the river and from Greenwich. It  is famous for its classic views over the river to the buildings and sights of Greenwich. The view was judged to be the greatest view in Europe by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th Century. It is especially associated with the painting of Greenwich from this spot by Giovanni Antonio Caneletto in the 18th Century.

A little bit of Island Gardens History

Up to the 19th Century most of the Isle of Dogs was farmland, however when shipbuilding and other industries began to spring up along the riverfront, the land that became Island Gardens was leased to the Admiralty who wished to preserve the site to maintain the views to Greenwich.

However it  was not until 1893 when there was a movement to turn this space into a public open space. This was achieved in 1895 when Island Gardens was considered “a little piece of paradise” amongst a rapidly industrialised and residential environment.

postcard 2


Early 20th Century Postcards.

Most people are agreed that this is one of the great views of London,  a view that almost unique in London due to the fact that it has remained virtually unchanged over the last 300 years. It is also a tourist attraction that is visited by thousands of visitors every year, many who come from Greenwich through the foot tunnel. It is used extensively by local residents who value it as one of the few green spaces left on the Isle of Dogs.

The Gardens lie within sight of  Greenwich World Heritage Site . Island Gardens  is on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest; Island Gardens and the lift tunnel rotunda are listed Grade II. The Gardens sit at the centre of the Island Gardens Conservation Area.

However in the 21st Century these classic views are considered under threat from encroaching developments of  riverside property developers.

The Battle of Island Gardens

In 2011/2012 planning permission was sought to build a five-story block of Flats almost adjacent to Grade II Lift tunnel rotunda.


Artist impression of new flats

This has caused widespread opposition to the plans from conservation groups and local residents

Local residents objections are not based on that there should be no development, but rather that any development should be sympathetic and in keeping with its surroundings. They also point out that it is in the centre of a conservation area which was created to protect the gardens.

One local resident Eric Pemberton argues:

“No one has any objection to the site being developed as long as it is in keeping with the present layout, five storeys is too much, the block would go immediately on the left of the entrance dome thus destroying that aspect and the axis to and from Island Gardens. If allowed it means the whole area could be redeveloped and more tower blocks thrown up.

Parm Mahil another local resident has set up a petition that already attracted 500 signatures.

If you wish to show some  support for the campaign please sign the petition by pressing here.


  1. Cllr Gloria Thienel - Blackwall & Cubbit Town Ward says:

    Hi . As the local ward Councillor involved in supporting the local community in it is objections to this Planning Application .I want to Thank you for an excellent write up . Gloria

  2. Bernard, Island Gardens says:

    I agree, the view across the river to Greenwich is stunning, I never tire of sitting in the gardens to have a quiet few minutes. It’s such a shame Greenwich Council allowed those glorified burger bars to be built last year, slap bang between the Royal Naval College and Cutty Sark. I just hope Tower Hamlets will show a bit more consideration when/if our side of the river is developed.

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