Arnold Circus is a unique garden and heritage asset at the heart of the 1890s Boundary Street Estate in east London. Originally designed to form the centrepiece of Britain's first publicly funded social housing scheme, it was an eye-catching focal point. It was intended to improve public health, promote exercise and be a ‘stage’ for the local community. Its form and tiered ‘wedding cake’ arrangement inspired the layout of the surrounding estate.
In latter years, the garden fell into decline and was rescued thanks to concerted action by the local community, led by the Friends of Arnold Circus. In 2010, the gardens underwent a major regeneration, led by LDA Design, which sensitively balanced restoration, sustainability, improvements and design. This took place after months of careful research, followed by meticulous workmanship to restore the historic elements and add new ones.
A vibrant new planting scheme was introduced, bringing colour and seasonal interest and improving biodiversity. The focal point of the gardens, the ‘at risk’ bandstand, was restored using handmade roofing tiles matching the original. Modifications were made to historic railings, incorporating new seating. A rainwater-harvesting system was installed, with underground storage reducing mains usage, providing recycled water on tap for planting, improving sustainability and reducing maintenance costs.
These gardens have been restored to their original beauty. They highlight the principles of sympathetically revitalising buildings ‘at risk’ and registered landscapes, making them more sustainable, accessible and attractive. The wider community is delighted with their renewed cultural and much-loved space, used for a diverse range of events.
The Friends now have a partnership agreement with the council to maintain the space, showing how communities can lobby for improvements in their local environment and influence design.