Island Gardens

Above: Island Gardens with Greenwich riverfront in the background.

Island Gardens is a public park located at the southern end of the Isle of Dogs. The Isle of Dogs is usually just called ‘The Island’ by the locals and so ‘Island Gardens’ was an obvious name for this green oasis. Being so limited for space on the Isle of Dogs, the gardens were its only open space until after the Second World War when, in 1968, the Sir John McDougal Gardens were opened on the western side, at Millwall. Since the formation of the Canary Wharf Estate, many other parks and open spaces have been created.

Island Gardens was formally opened on 3 August 1895 by local politician Will Crooks. It extends over 2.8 acres (1.12-hectare) beside the Thames, just east of the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs – situated between Saunders Ness Road and the river. The most notable feature is the spectacular panorama across the Thames of the former Greenwich Hospital (later the Royal Naval College and now the University of Greenwich campus), the ‘Cutty Sark’ tea clipper, the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House. Behind them, Greenwich Park forms a green backdrop with the old Royal Observatory on top of the hill.

Above: Reproduction of the Canaletto painting. Look carefully at the line of the masonry above the pillars in the centre of the painting. Now, look at the modern view (below). The artist must have been positioned much higher than the footpath in Island Gardens – possibly on board a ship.

Above: Modern view from the footpath in Island Gardens of the old Royal Naval College.

A very similar view was painted by Canaletto, titled ‘Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames’. Whether the view was painted from the land or from a vessel moored nearby is not known. It is believed it was painted between 1750 and 1752. There is more than one version of this painting and one of them has a perspective which indicates that the observer was higher than the land on the Isle of Dogs.

The northern entrance of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is situated within the park.  The park also gave its name to Island Gardens DLR station. This opened in 1987 as the southern terminus of the DLR’s initial system and was an elevated terminus situated to the west of the park. The later construction of the DLR extension to Lewisham involved a tunnel under the Thames, and Island Gardens station was relocated about 100 metres (330 ft) north, close to Millwall Park. The new station platforms are underground.


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