…a haven for wildlife and people

About Us

Established in 1984

The Phoenix Garden is Located in St Giles behind the Phoenix Theatre, within the London Borough of Camden, nestled between the busy Soho and Covent Garden areas. The Garden is located just off St Giles Passage and Stacey Street, north of Shaftesbury Avenue and east of Charing Cross Road.

The Phoenix Garden is the last of the Covent Garden Community Gardens

There were originally seven gardens, created by the local community on vacant lots in the 1970’s and 80’s. There was a Japanese Garden, a Water Garden and a Chess Garden among them. The last of these closed for development in the 1980’s.

The Garden was set up on a car park site in the 1980s, which had itself been established on a World War II bombsite (the site was bombed in 1940) and opened to the public in June 1984. Prior to this the Garden was the site of many houses, including a pub. The Phoenix Garden has survived various challenges, including a major industrial fly-tipping incident soon after its foundation.

Moving Forward:

We are a registered charity and used to be known as the Covent Garden Open Spaces Association (CGOSA), and are now a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. For 30 years the charity was housed in, and run out of, a simple concrete block ‘shed’.  Expected to be replaced after 5 years, it had started to fall down after 25 years. It had no proper facilities; no toilets, no drainage, water was from an improvised hose-pipe strapped to the water main, and it was infested with mice. When plans for a new local development were presented; the Lorenzo Piano designed Central St Giles building, it became clear there was an opportunity for us to access large scale funding. We applied for funds to improve the gardens infrastructure, to construct a new garden building, and were awarded £300,000 towards this project.  At the same time we began negotiations for a new lease for the garden.  It took nine years to negotiate a new lease, and delays with this held up our building plans for 3 years. Rumours grew that the garden was to be sold off, like so many other assets have been in London.  It was a great relief to eventually sign a new 20 year lease in 2015 and this allowed the building work to move ahead.

New Building

Architect, Gurmeet Sian, was appointed with the brief to use the existing footprint of the original building and to provide a multi-purpose space for community events, to house the charity and to generate income. To create a building that was part of the garden, and not a building in the garden. Work finally began on construction in October 2015 and completed in October 2016.  In total we had to raise just over half a million pounds for the project – looking back it is amazing how well we did with attracting funding. The building provides us the space we need for running the charity, for community events, volunteer workdays, workshops and education, it has two toilets (one accessible), a small kitchen and a tool store.  It is super-insulated and heated with an air-source heat pump. It has a biodiverse brown roof, a rooftop propagation area and rainwater catchment – if ever we do need to water the garden.

Sustainability is at the core of the Phoenix Garden:

With the building construction complete, we were left with a construction site to re-landscape – a rather daunting task with one gardener and a group of weekend volunteers.  Work began in October 2016 with digging out rubble and adjusting the levels.  Tons of brick and concrete rubble were dug out and saved, tons and tons of compacted rubble and earth were moved by hand to prepare the area.  We were keen to use all the materials onsite; building waste removal is incredibly expensive and sustainability is at the core of how we run and manage the garden and shapes it’s aesthetic and character. All the rubble was passed through a mini-crusher by volunteers – over 25 tons – and this material was used to construct raised beds and new, wheelchair and pram friendly paths.