The Royal Opera House (ROH) is moving its stage building facilities to a new site in Purfleet, Essex and will be reinstating a pre-17th century landscape in the process.

Artist's impression of the Tudor Knot garden
Artist's impression of the Tudor Knot garden

The ROH’s current facilities are in the Olympic Park, which made relocating to the 6ha site in Purfleet a priority.

Clive McDonnell Landscape Design is masterplanning the site in conjunction with Nicholas Hare Architects and carrying out all the soft landscape design. The aim is to return the existing buildings and surrounding landscape to their original pre-17th century origins.

Faced with a derelict walled garden about the size of five tennis courts, McDonnell worked with historic gardens expert Caroline Holmes who supplied ideas and plant lists.

He said: “We’ve reinstated an orchard with semi-mature pear, mirabelle, apple and cherry trees from Germany, under planted with cowslips, and we’re intending to plant an “opera” border with perennials creating a flowing pattern, punctuated by agapanthus, alliums and red hot pokers to depict musical high notes.

“The walled garden will also contain a performance space, a Tudor Knot garden and a kitchen garden, where the emphasis will be on growing older vegetables such as white carrots, which will help supply the restaurant.”

Beyond the walled garden the landscape architects are reinstating a down land meadow on a south facing chalk escarpment. Thousands of chalk loving native wild flowers such as harebells, clustered bell flowers, hoary plantains, as well as more cowslips are being grown. The finishing, and perhaps the most important, element in the re-created landscape is the installation of traditional hedgerows that evoke the area’s original farmland character.

The project is being developed by the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation and is funded by a partnership made up of the East of England Development Agency, the Arts Council of England (East), Thurrock Borough Council, the Royal Opera House, the National Skills Academy for Creative and Cultural Skills and Liberty International.

The whole site is expected to open in early 2011.


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