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Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 10:47 UK
The secret garden in the clouds
By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
BBC Surrey

The garden is open every day during store opening hours, all year round

The Jellicoe Roof Garden was designed in the 1950s by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, one of the 20th century's leading landscape architects.

It sits 50 feet above Guildford High Street and once boasted a three storey waterfall.

It is now looked after by Iranian gardener Souren Ala who fell in love with the garden, after finding it crumbling and overgrown five years ago.

But he is moving on to pastures new and the hunt is on for a new caretaker.

Suoren Ala

Souren found the garden by chance, when he was shopping in the department store whose roof it occupies.

It was in a poor state of repair but the garden designer decided a bit of expert care was all it needed to thrive once again.

He persuaded the General Manager to let him transform it, back to its former glory.

The original garden was installed on top of what was then Harvey's department store, by Sir Geoffrey in 1958.

He is responsible for many famous landscape projects worldwide, but several of his best known are much closer to home; the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, the Sutton Place Garden in Guildford, the canal at RHS Wisley and Horsted.

But the Jellicoe Roof Garden remains one of his more unique gardens.

It was probably the implication of this (sputnik) that caused the whirl of circles that is reminiscent of the planets.
Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe

The "sky garden" was designed "to unite heaven and earth; the sensation is one of being poised between the two".


It was inspired by the launch of the first Sputnik, a Russian designed earth-orbiting satellite, which sparked the international "Space Race".

The design, with its curved lines and circular shapes was best seen from the upper viewing platform, which sadly, no longer exists.

Also, long gone is the waterfall, which tumbled over the parapet and down to the floors below.

Gone too is the spacious seating area, which gave way for air conditioning units and other essential buildings, and there are no longer fish swimming in the pools.

Garden in the 1950's
The garden was built in the 1950's and was a popular viewing point

In fact, the garden almost disappeared completely in the 1980's when it fell into disrepair.

But as part of the store refurbishment program, and partly thanks to a condition of the planning application, which stated that the garden must be preserved, it was saved for the public.

Grade II listing

A Grade II listing from English Heritage followed, which means the garden will stay to be enjoyed by generations to come.

However, Souren is leaving it behind, as he is moving on to pastures new, (presumably on ground level), and so the sky garden is looking for a new caretaker.

The Jellicoe Roof Garden is on the top floor of the House of Fraser, 105-111 High Street, Guildford and is open every day during store opening hours. It is free to visit.

In pictures: Jellicoe Roof Garden
17 Aug 09 |  Nature & Outdoors



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