Much of the area remained farmland until early-mid C19th development although wealthy merchants had began to build villas here in the C18th. The town houses of Durand Gardens, originally called The Grove, were built from 1840 onwards with a central garden laid out for use by the residents. The garden's irregular shape is possibly due to it being the site of a plague pit. Although it was once laid out as an ornamental garden it became neglected. In the 1980s the Durand Gardens Residents Association purchased the site, and it is now maintained as a woodland garden.
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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. 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.
Ian Yarham, Michael Waite, Andrew Simpson, Niall Machin, 'Nature Conservation in Lambeth', Ecology Handbook 26 (London Ecology Unit), 1994; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; Draft Stockwell Park Conservation Area Statement, July 2007; Information Boards produced by Durand Gardens Residents Association.