Red Cross Garden is a hidden gem in Bankside, Southwark, London SE1. It’s a picturesque and peaceful garden with a pond designed by Octavia Hill (1838-1921), a social reformer and one of the Natural Trust founders. Thankfully, the Bankside Open Spaces Trust restored the garden to its original Victorian glory and layout in 2005. If you’re looking for small parks in Southwark, places to sit down in Bankside or outdoor spaces to hire, check out Red Cross Garden.
Red Cross Garden, Cottages and More
Enter the Red Cross Garden through one of three gates on Ayres Street, Redcross Way and another just off Redcross Way next to the housing block. Stop for a moment to read the plaque on the gate, ‘Welcome to Red Cross Garden, established by Octavia Hill, Social Reformer and co-founder of the National Trust in 1887. Restored by Bankside Open Spaces Trust in 2005.’
If you enter Red Cross Garden via Ayres Street, you can admire White Cross Cottages, a row of six Grade II Listed Buildings by Elijah Hoole dating back to 1890.
At the end of the row is Bishop’s Hall (originally Red Cross Hall), 8 Ayres Street, which was built as a community hall. Next door at 8A is the George Bell House. Both are by Elijah Hoole with Grade II Listed Building status. (The modern building next to 8A is the Open Spaces Trust Office).
Once inside the garden, you will see a blue plaque on Bishop’s Hall referencing Octavia Hill. It says, ‘Octavia Hill, Social Reformer, established this garden, hall and cottages, and pioneered Army Cadets, 1887-90.’
You’ll notice Red Cross Cottages facing the beautiful garden. Again, it is a row of six cottages by Elijah Hoole for Octavia Hill. With Tudor revival style gabled fronts and overhanging first floors, these working-class houses are a great example of Arts and Crafts architecture.
If facing Red Cross Cottages, the back of Octavia House, 54 Ayres Street, is to the right. Appreciate the round glass mosaic picture donated by Julia Powel and Sons. There are two carved stones with inscriptions to read.
Red Cross Garden is a glorious patch of greenery bursting with flowers and shrubs. Expect to be delighted by the pretty pops of colours from the rose bushes, foxgloves and hollyhocks. You’ll hear the bees buzzing around the abundance of lavender plants. In the evening, you may spot a fox wandering through the garden, and the cottage cats like to roam around during the day looking for birds!
Gravel paths take you on a meandering garden tour past the cottages to the pond and through the planting.
In one corner is an ornamental pond with a wooden deck allowing you to admire the water close up. The pond’s reeds and grasses make it a haven for small garden wildlife.
If you look in the direction of the pond, you will see The Shard standing proud in the background with its glazed windows glistening in the sunlight.
With benches dotted around, you can sit down, soak up the sun, and take a break from work. Locals and nearby office workers frequent the gardens looking for somewhere to eat lunch in the warm weather. Some weekends you may come across an event in the garden, which is a welcome treat. We often walk through the garden and sit down after we’ve been shopping at the M&S behind the Tate Modern. Once we’ve had ten minutes of calm, we can finish our walk home feeling relaxed.
Red Cross Garden Information
According to the information I found on Wikipedia, Red Cross Garden was Octavia Hill’s pioneer social housing scheme. It was built on the site of a paper factory and hop warehouse. The garden was funded by the Countess of Ducie and the Kyrle Society. Emmeline Sieveking, assisted by Fanny Wilkinson, laid out the garden, which was opened in 1888. I suggest you read the Wikipedia Red Cross Garden Page and the information about Octavia Hill on the National Trust Website and the Octavia Hill Website.
The Red Cross Garden address is 50 Redcross Way, London SE1 1HA in the London Borough of Southwark. The closest stations are Borough and London Bridge. Read about Red Cross Garden at the Bankside Open Spaces Trust Website for more information.
While you are in the area, you may want to explore further. If so, please read my posts:
Cross Bones Graveyard Garden Of Remembrance
Tacking Down Charles Dickens Southwark Walk
Backstreets Of Bankside Historical Building Walk
Ten Unusual Things To Do In Bankside
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London.