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Awakening Sculpture, Roper's Garden

A Grade II Listed Building in Chelsea Riverside, London

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Latitude: 51.4827 / 51°28'57"N

Longitude: -0.1718 / 0°10'18"W

OS Eastings: 527042

OS Northings: 177561

OS Grid: TQ270775

Mapcode National: GBR 5Q.MN

Mapcode Global: VHGQY.ZZ1Q

Plus Code: 9C3XFRMH+37

Entry Name: Awakening Sculpture, Roper's Garden

Listing Date: 18 August 2020

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1468320

ID on this website: 101468320

Location: Roper's Gardens, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3

County: London

District: Kensington and Chelsea

Electoral Ward/Division: Chelsea Riverside

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Kensington and Chelsea

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Tagged with: Sculpture


Bronze figurative sculpture, signed G Ledward 1915, cast 1922-1923, installed in Roper's Garden 1964.


Bronze figurative sculpture, signed G Ledward 1915, cast 1922-1923 and installed 1964 as part of the garden designed by Peter Shepheard of Bridgwater, Shepheard & Epstein.

MATERIALS: Bronze-cast sculpture fixed to a cement pedestal with cement planter border.

PLAN: square pedestal with cut-away corners bordered with a square planter.

DESCRIPTION: female nude with arms outstretched, naturalistically rendered. The sculpture is 1.85m in height and is elevated on a slender pedestal to which it is permanently fixed (giving a total height of around 3m). The sculpture is bordered by a raised, square cement planter (around 1.5 x 1.5m), creating a flowerbed around the pedestal and integrating the sculpture within the wider garden design. The representational figure has a strong counterpoint in Jacob Epstein's abstract female figure, a fragment of an unfinished relief which since 1972 has been positioned on the east side of Roper's Garden.


The Roper’s Garden (or Cheyne Walk Garden) site is at the heart of the old village of Chelsea immediately west of the old parish Church of All Saints. It formed part of the orchard of Sir Thomas More, which he gave to his daughter Margaret on her marriage to William Roper in 1521. In the C19 the area became heavily built up, becoming one of London’s most densely populated boroughs. Chelsea Embankment, which runs along the southern side of the site, was laid out in the early 1870s, opening in 1874. Between 1909 and 1914 Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) had a studio on the site, as commemorated by his sculpture on the east side of the garden (installed June 1972).

During the Second World War the area suffered severe bomb damage. Early in the morning of 17 April 1941, a parachute mine destroyed all the buildings on the site and most of the Church of All Saints opposite, as is commemorated by a recent plaque in the garden to Yvonne Green, a local auxiliary firefighter. Local residents led by the Chelsea Society argued to keep the land as open space following the war, and planted it themselves. In 1960, Peter Shepheard produced a professional design for the gardens, exploiting the basements of the previous buildings to create a sunken garden with walls to keep out some of the traffic noise. The garden was opened on 11 March 1964 by Lady Heath, mayor of Chelsea and remains little altered.

The ‘Awakening’ sculpture by Gilbert Ledward is the centrepiece of Roper’s Garden. It was modelled in 1915 and exhibited in 1916 as ‘Regeneration’ as one of his first works. The bronze version was cast from the plaster in 1922-1923. Gilbert Ledward (1888-1960) belongs to an often overlooked generation of C20 sculptors. He was born in Chelsea, the son of the sculptor Richard Arthur Ledward. He trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art in 1905, where he studied under Edouard Lanteri. His fellow students included Charles Sargeant Jagger, Charles Wheeler and William McMillan, a generation who were to occupy a transitory position between the New Sculptors of the late C19 and the C20 modernists, such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Over the course of his career, Ledward was a prolific artist. Following the First World War he produced many powerful memorials, including the Guards Memorial, Horse Guards Parade which is listed at Grade I (List entry number 1231315). His early work was largely in bronze but he turned to direct carving in stone from the late 1920s, when he was appointed professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art (1927-1929). Awakening is modelled on Ledward’s wife Margery, and remained in Ledward’s studio until his death. It was exhibited at Battersea Park in the LCC’s exhibition Sculpture in the Open Air in 1960 before being installed in the centre of Roper’s Gardens. Ledward’s other sculpture in Kensington & Chelsea, the Venus Fountain at Sloane Square, is listed at Grade II (List entry number 1391739).

Reasons for Listing

Gilbert Ledward’s Awakening sculpture, set within Roper’s Garden, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a finely rendered figurative sculpture, selected to be the centrepiece of an important garden design of the 1960s by Peter Shepheard.

Historic interest:

* as a significant and well-preserved early work by Gilbert Ledward, a leading figurative sculptor of his generation.

Group value:

* as the centrepiece of Roper’s Garden (registered Grade II; 1468220). The sculpture also forms part of views out from the garden towards the Church of All Saints to the east (listed Grade I; 1189649) and Crosby Hall (Grade II*; 1358160) to the west. To the south-east, along Chelsea Embankment, is a listed lamp standard of 1874 (Grade II; 1080713).

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