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Trinity Hospice Garden Lambeth


Trinity Hospice is comprised of four different houses, which have been linked together. In the mid-C17th a mansion, Clapham Place, stood nearby in extensive grounds that included some formal gardens. When this house was demolished in the mid-C18th two large houses with gardens were built on part of the site. In the 1890s one of these became a home for the terminally ill, and adjoining houses and their gardens were added over the years. In the 1980s following major works to update the hospice, the neglected garden was redesigned by John Medhurst along the principles of Lanning Roper. In 2009 the garden was again re-designed to integrate it with a newly-built, partly sunken wing.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Hostel of God; The Elms; Clapham Place

Site location:
29 -32 Clapham Common North Side

SW4 0RN ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Institutional Grounds

1890s; 1980s; 2009

1982-4 John Medhurst; TP Bennett/Skidmore Landscaping 2009

Listed structures:
LBII: Trinity Hospice


Site ownership:
Trinity Hospice

Site management:
Trinity Hospice

Open to public?

Opening times:
Has opened for Open Garden Squares Weekend, National Gardens Scheme plus other events
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 8 times, most recently in 2018.

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Tube: Clapham Common (Northern). Rail/London Overground: Clapham Junction. Bus: 35, 37, 88, 137, 155, 345, G1, N155

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Conservation Area name:
The Chase

Tree Preservation Order:

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:

Other LA designation:

Trinity Hospice Garden

Royal Trinity Hospice - Photo: Sarah Jackson

Click photo to enlarge.


Fuller information

In medieval times the area between Clapham Common (q.v.) and the present Wandsworth Road was mainly woodland and formed part of the estate attached to the Manor House, which was located near the present St Paul’s Church (q.v.). The medieval manor house passed through various hands, most notably the Gauden family, suppliers to the Navy under Cromwell and Charles II. In c.1660 Sir Denis Gauden enlarged a hunting lodge in the woods just north of Clapham Common into a substantial house with well-laid out gardens, facing on to the common and grounds stretching back to Wandsworth Road. When Sir Denis ran into financial difficulties the house was bought by William Hewer, former clerk and then business partner of Samuel Pepys. Pepys made several visits to the house, which he described in his diary, and came to live here with Hewer in 1700 when he left his central London home because of ill health. He died in Clapham in 1703. There is a vignette of Clapham Place shown on John Ogilvy’s Road Map of 1675, and recent research by local historian Michael Green has made a strong case for identifying the garden front of a mansion shown on a Streater view of 1662-64 as being that of Clapham Place with formal gardens in front. An early C18th account of the garden by gardener and diarist John Evelyn describes it as being ‘exceedingly well accommodated for pleasure and retirement’. William Nicholson, Bishop of Carlisle, who visited the house in 1702 admired the ‘Gardens, Walks and Bowling Green, Ponds etc answerable to the House’ and the hedges of different heights and woods, bay, yew, holly and hornbeam, and he noted that Evelyn ‘own’d himself the causer of a deal of Luxury in the matters’.

Some idea of the layout of the garden can be seen in a plan of c.1715 which appears to have been drawn up at the time parts of the estate were sold off. An avenue of trees led towards the house, and ‘plat carpet walks’ covered most of the site of the present Trinity Hospice building and garden, with a fountain behind. The original garden of Clapham Place covered a very much larger area than the current hospice garden. The Rocque map of 1746 shows the garden, with some indications of planting.

The present houses on the site were built in the 1750s, Nos. 30-31 which are a pair in 1752 and No. 29 in 1756. No. 32, which also forms part of the hospice was originally a stable block, built in 1840, later to be known as No. 32. The houses have now all been joined into one, and much altered in the process. The earliest recorded occupants of No. 30 (in 1752) were a family named Willett. The house remained with the Willett family, and in 1780 it is recorded as the home of Susannah Willett, widow of the banker, John Barclay. Meanwhile in about 1794 Robert Barclay, banker (son of Susannah) moved in to No. 31 with his new wife. The next year he moved to No. 29 where he stayed until his death in 1816. There is no information about his garden, but he had a keen interest in astronomy and it is recorded that he built an observatory in his garden at Clapham. This was presumably in the garden of No. 29 though it is not shown on any of the maps.

It is not clear who first occupied No. 31 but by the 1790s it was the home of George Hibbert, MP perhaps most noted for his opposition to the abolition of the slave trade. He had an important library, was a collector of prints and drawings and also a noted plant collector. His long obituary in The Gentlemen’s Magazine included the following: ‘He was an excellent botanist. The collection of plants at his residence at Clapham was commenced about the year 1796. In forming it, he employed agents in almost every part of the globe; and he was the means of introducing into this country many new and beautiful species, and some new genera of plants, some of which are now common in our gardens; others have never blossomed except in his greenhouse.' No illustrations of the garden survive, but when Hibbert left Clapham in 1820 there is a good description of the property and the garden in the details of the sale by auction: 'Capacious Family House, Pleasure-grounds, Gardens, extensive Hot-houses, Paddock and Land .. A Valuable Freehold Property, presenting a frontage of 177 feet, on the northern side of Clapham-common, consisting of the elegant and commodious residence of George Hibbert, Esq., the house affords ample accommodation for a large family [then follows a detailed description of the house] . . . detached offices of every description, lawn, forest-trees, rare shrubs and indigenous plants, a range of peach-houses and graperies, about 210 feet in extent, stocked with fine trees in full bearing; productive gardens, detached gardener’s cottage, melon-ground and out-buildings, with a beautiful paddock adjoining, extending to the lower road to Wandsworth and containing altogether about 6 acres.. . '

There is a reference in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1801 to ‘a hitherto undescribed species of pelargonium’ grown by Mr George Hibbert ‘in whose garden at Clapham Common the choicest gifts of Flora are cultivated on a most magnificent scale.’ Hibbert’s head gardener at Clapham was Joseph Knight, who wrote an important book on the cultivation of proteas. When Hibbert left London he gave his collection of plants to Knight, who started the Royal Exotic Nursery in King’s Road, Chelsea.

Some time in theC19th Nos. 30 and 31 were joined together as one house, which became known as The Hollies. Sir James Knowles, architect and founder of Nineteenth Century magazine lived here from 1865-1884. The poet Tennyson, who was a friend and client, Knowles building him a house in Surrey, came to stay at the house, which is mentioned in his diaries and those of his wife, but they do not describe the garden.

The first occupant of No. 29 (also known as The Elms) in 1775 was Mrs Page. She may have still been there is 1801 when a description of her house and garden appears in Edward’s road book: ‘It is a handsome square house of grey stock-bricks, of a modern erection, and finished in present taste. It has good gardens on the north, with an avenue of lofty elm trees, skirted beneath with pleasant shrubberies, which extend as far as the Kingston Road. At a small distance from the north of the present edifice formerly stood an ancient seat of the Ewers’ (i.e. Clapham Place, mentioned above). However, this information conflicts with other reports, and in particular a map with a plan entitled ‘A perambulation of Clapham Common with the Gentlemens seats & names of the occupiers’ dated 1800 which shows Robert Barclay already living there.

There is no map showing these houses and gardens clearly until 1827. It is likely that by this time the grounds no longer extended to the Kingston Road (now Wandsworth Road), since a road seems to be shown across the grounds about half way to the road. By the time of Bland’s 1849 map there were some houses built along The Chase, so the grounds seem to be even more cut back.> It is not known who succeeded Robert Barclay but in 1853 the architect Sir Charles Barry moved into No. 29, by now usually referred to as The Elms (though the 1862 map confuses The Elms and The Hollies). This map shows the two distinct gardens, and the development of the surrounding area. Barry bought land to the west of his property, which he laid out as the present Victoria Rise. Sadly, despite the fact that Sir Charles Barry was associated with the garden designs at several houses he built (notably Trentham, Cliveden and Shrubland Park) there are no records of his own garden in Clapham. Barry died suddenly of a heart attack at The Elms in 1860.

It then became the home of Ambrose Boyson, whose daughter later described the garden as follows: ‘The Chase was only a narrow lane, the garden was large and beautiful, extending a long way down The Chase and there, ending in a field and large pond . . . a kitchen garden (extended) all down the left side of the garden, . . . taking in nearly all the garden now belonging to the Hollies, including the mulberry tree.’

For a while in the 1890s The Elms was a girls’ school, and in 1900 it became the home of a charity, the Hostel for the Dying also known as the Hostel of God, which had been founded in 1891 in two houses in The Chase. After WWII the three neighbouring houses (nos. 30, 31 and 32) were added to the Hostel, and the three joined together and much altered so that it is difficult to see the distinct houses now. The Hostel was initially run by the Sisters of the Poor, and later by St Margaret’s nursing order of nuns. In 1951 a new wing, St Michael’s, was built extending out into the garden.

By the late 1970s major changes were taking place at the Hostel of God. The hospice movement was developing and the nursing sisters were unable to find new recruits. No other religious order could be found to take on the Hostel, so the Council decided in 1977 that the home should become an independent secular home for the terminally ill. Major renovations to the buildings were undertaken funded by The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trust, the name was changed to Trinity Hospice, and in 1981 work on the restoration of the by now neglected garden began. In March 1981 Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, patron of the hospice, planted a new purple beech to replace a dangerous old one. The eminent garden designer, Lanning Roper, who had accompanied Lady Sainsbury on one of her visits to the internal restoration, had offered to draw up a plan for the garden. However, work on that was delayed until the building work was completed and Roper died early in 1983 before the plans were resolved. In March of that year John Medhurst of London Landscape Consortium was commissioned to provide a master plan for the development of the garden, with the assistance of David Foreman. The design reflected Lanning Roper’s principles, including sweeping lawns with hilly contours and curving brick paths with borders in muted colours - blues, greys, white and pink shades. Its original strength was in the variety of existing mature trees - a catalpa, a mulberry, a weeping ash, planes and a cedar - which gave height and shade at strategic points. A curved beech hedge divided the Long Garden from the Meadow Garden at the far end. In this area a pond (originally to be round, but changed at the request of the sculptor George Rickey) was bordered by a meadow of wild grasses, teasels and dog daisies under a black mulberry tree. In the centre of the pond was a brushed stainless steel kinetic sculpture, specially commissioned from the American artist George Rickey, entitled Four Open Squares Horizontal Tapered. The horizontal frame-like forms swivel in the wind, making new configurations as they overlap. The original plan was slightly amended in the execution, but Medhurst’s basic design was fulfilled. Detailed planting plans survive.

Three friends for whom Lanning Roper had built gardens, Lady Sainsbury, Lord Palumbo and Lord Normanby, launched an appeal to build ‘The Lanning Roper Memorial Garden’, and appeal letters were sent to Roper’s friend and clients to ensure that funds were not taken away from patient care. Work began on the garden in September 1983 with the hard landscaping undertaken by Mansells. Most of the plants arrived in January 1984, supplied by Notcutts, Blooms of Bressingham and R Poland. The gardens were completed by May 1984 when contributors were invited to a grand opening. A further appeal was launched to raise money to maintain the garden, which was to be run as economically as possible with the main expenditure being one gardener, and the remainder of the workforce being volunteers. Anne Woods, the gardener who took over the new garden watched it develop over nearly 20 years, moving on only shortly before the next redesign.

In 1993 new day care centre and offices were built behind the original No. 32 on the western boundary of the site. A new brick terrace was linked to the lawn below by a water sculpture, Cascade and Pool, by the sculptor, William Pye, who lived locally.

In 2003 St Michael’s, the wing built out in to the garden in 1951, was demolished and replaced by a new in-patient centre on the same footprint. The new building was, however, built lower than the existing garden in order to comply with the planning permission, which allowed for a two-storey building, but not exceeding the height of the former single-storey building. This entailed a serious redesign of the garden, and much of the original garden was a building site while the wing was rebuilt.

The new garden by the architects of the building, TP Bennett, was designed to be seen from both levels of the new building, with steep slopes of shrubs and herbaceous planting falling towards the building. The rooms on the lower level open directly on to individual paved spaces with their own personalised small gardens. The hard landscaping, undertaken by Verrys construction, and the planting by Skidmore’s Landscaping was completed by June 2009. The new in-patient centre and gardens were officially opened in July 2009 by the patron of the hospice, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, and a weeping cherry tree was planted in one of the new lawns in her honour. A few of the trees survive from theC19th, in particular, one mulberry, but a very large, old cedar tree had to be removed as it was unsafe. It also seems likely that at least one of the existing paths follows the route of a path shown in the 1874 OS map. The garden continues to mature and evolve to provide a very special environment for patients and visitors. This is one of the outstanding attractions of this hospice for patients, who value the haven of peace it provides. Many quiet and shady areas, several provided with benches, allow patients and their visitors some privacy and solace.

The garden is still maintained by one gardener, Mike Halman, with the assistance of a team of volunteers. It is open to the public several times a year under the Yellow Book Garden Scheme.

Sources consulted:

Jane Brown, ' Lanning Roper and his Gardens', New York, 1987; Michael Burgess, 'The Chronicles of Clapham', London, 1929; James Edwards, 'Companion from London to Brighthelmston', London, 1801; Michael Green, 'Historic Clapham', Stroud, 2009; J W Grover, 'Old Clapham, Clapham S.W'. 1887; Arabella Lennox-Boyd, 'Private Gardens of London', London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990; Sarah Lush, 'Trinity Hospice: A History of Care 1891-1991'; C Smith, 'Actual Survey of the Road from London to Brighthelmston', c.1800; Alyson Wilson (Ed.) 'The Buildings of Clapham', London, 2000; Anne Wood, ‘Hospice Gardens’, European Journal of Palliative Care, 6:1 (1999) pp.19-21.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Alyson Wilson, 2010.

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