Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape

Piper Alpha Memorial Garden / North Sea Memorial Rose GardenGDL00412

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
NJ 89230 5261
389230, 805261


The garden is an important site of public commemoration and memory. With Sue Jane Taylor's memorial as its centrepiece, the garden is dedicated to those killed on Piper Alpha, the world's worst offshore oil and gas disaster. Appreciated for its artistic qualities, the garden has outstanding historic interest for its association with an event of international significance and for the role it plays in connecting people to its meanings and legacies.


Type of Site


Formal memorial rose garden with central memorial sculpture.



Main Phases of Landscape Development



Artistic Interest

Level of interest


Evidence gathered during our assessment (2023) indicates appreciation for the scale and design of the garden, the beauty and colour of the roses, and for its quiet, sheltered and secluded character.


The garden was recognised by a special award in 1989.The garden is representative of the work of David Welch, Aberdeen's former Director of Parks, who is known for establishing the city's reputation for roses and floral display in its green spaces in the 1970s and 1980s.


The central memorial was the first major public sculpture commission by artist Sue Jane Taylor, who is renowned for her documentation of the technology, engineering and people of the offshore energy sector since the early 1980s.


Level of interest



The garden commemorates a historic event of international significance. It is the only memorial site in Aberdeen specifically dedicated to the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster, and it is a rare physical marker of the heritage of the North Sea oil and gas industry.


The garden is strongly valued as a public site of memory. It connects people and communities to the enduring legacies of the Piper Alpha disaster. This is reflected in various forms of engagement, including private mourning and contemplation, shared public rituals of remembrance, and the education of new generations.


Level of interest


The garden has a large collection of roses of different varieties, which is maintained on a regular basis.


Level of interest


The centrepiece of the garden is the monumental memorial sculpture by Sue Jane Taylor (LB52621).


Level of interest


There are no known archaeological sites of interest within the garden boundary.


Level of interest


Given its secluded character, the visual impacts of the garden design are limited to views within the garden space, and there is little contribution to the character of the wider landscape when viewed from outside of its boundaries.


The garden is a component within a larger public park which contains various areas of interest.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest


Roses are beneficial for insect life, like bees and hoverflies and it is likely that the extensive rose beds in this garden support nature conservation interest as part of the larger green space of Hazlehead Park.

Location and Setting


The Memorial Garden is located within Hazlehead Park, a large public park in the western suburbs of Aberdeen. The garden occupies a large rectangular plot in the southwest part of the park, immediately adjacent and to the east of the Queen Mother Rose Garden. The inventory boundary follows the garden perimeter as defined mainly by high hedges and encloses around 7770 square metres. The garden is known widely as the Piper Alpha Memorial Garden but is also titled as the North Sea Memorial Rose Garden.

Site History


The Piper Alpha oil platform was the site of the world's worst offshore disaster. Located 110 miles northeast of Aberdeen in the North Sea, it had been built and installed in 1975–76 to exploit the newly discovered reservoirs of the Piper oilfield. This was a period of exploration and expansion for Britain's fledgling North Sea oil and gas industry, with Aberdeen emerging as the capital of the economic boom. Operated by Occidental Petroleum, Piper Alpha was, for a time, among the largest, most profitable, and most productive of all the North Sea installations (Guardian 04/07/2013).


On the night of 6 July 1988, Piper Alpha was destroyed by a series of explosions that caused major fires and the substantial collapse of the platform. Out of 226 men on the platform that night, 165 lost their lives, together with two crewmen from the MV Sandhaven, who were killed during the rescue attempt. Only 61 men survived, many with injuries and long-term trauma. Thirty bodies were never recovered.


A Public Inquiry into the disaster led by Lord Cullen from 1989–1990 revealed systemic failings in the management of safety and inadequate regulation as causal  factors (Cullen 1990). Piper Alpha was the UK's worst industrial accident for over half a century and the event is regarded as a defining moment in the history of the North Sea oil and gas industry (Kemp 2012: 614; Brotherstone and Manson 2007).


The idea for a public memorial to the Piper Alpha dead took hold amidst the shock and distress of the months that followed the disaster. Unlike other national tragedies of the 1980s (e.g. Bradford Stadium fire, Clapham Junction, Hillsborough), the North Sea disaster site was largely inaccessible, leaving no obvious place for the expression of grief or to reflect on the meanings and legacy of the disaster (O'Byrne 2011: 100). This was especially the case for families of men whose bodies were not recovered or could not be identified.


While Occidental Petroleum commissioned a book of remembrance and did not support another form of commemoration (Aberdeen Press and Journal 09/06/1989; 21/09/1989; McGinty 2008: 271; O'Byrne 2011; Taylor 2003), the survivors and bereaved recognised the acute need for a permanent physical memorial, not just for private grief, but as a public symbol of relevance for the future and a lasting reminder of the disaster. In 1988–89, the Piper Alpha Memorial Fund Committee and the Families and Survivors Group came together to consult with affected families as the basis for discussions on a suitable site and design.


Aberdeen City District Council offered two possible locations – Hazlehead Park in the western suburbs, or a city centre site. The Memorial Committee opted for the former as an appropriately quiet, contemplative setting. The site available was a new formal rose garden designed by Aberdeen's Director of Parks, David Welch, as a mirror-image extension to his 1980 Queen Mother Rose Garden, completed for the Queen Mother's 80th birthday. In April 1989, the council announced that the new garden extension, underway at the time of the disaster, would be dedicated to the victims of Piper Alpha (Aberdeen Press and Journal 29/04/1989). With planting complete that year, the garden was recognised with a special award from the Beautiful Scotland in Bloom competition (Aberdeen Evening Express 13/09/89).


In the meantime, the Memorial Committee reached a consensus on the design brief for the memorial sculpture. It should be figurative, represent the offshore workforce and prominently display the names of the 167 men lost (McGinty 2008: 271; Taylor 2015: 152). The visual artist, Sue Jane Taylor (b.1960), emerged as the obvious choice for the commission as her art focussed on the people and infrastructure of the oil industry. She had spent time offshore in the course of her work, including a week on Piper Alpha itself in 1987. Importantly, she gained the trust of the Piper families, consulting them before refusing Occidental rights to her work, and inviting them to a special exhibition preview of her work in Edinburgh in 1989 (O'Byrne 2011:100; Lives in the Oil Industry: Taylor 2003; Taylor 2015: 150).

After accepting the brief, Sue Jane Taylor moved to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden in January 1990 to start work.


The £100,000 cost for the memorial was raised following a hard-won campaign by the widows and mothers of the Memorial Committee. While fundraising had begun in earnest in 1989, it stalled by that autumn with contributions from the offshore industries considered by many to be disappointing (Aberdeen Press and Journal 21/09/89). The cost was finally reached through public donations, including from the Piper families themselves, and a £40,000 government grant. From the combined oil and gas companies operating in the North Sea, the committee received a total of £14,000 (Aberdeen Press and Journal 26/01/90; McGinty 2008: 271–272; O'Byrne 2011: 99; Taylor 2015: 153).


The garden assumed its role as a dedicated space of remembrance even before the completion and installation of the memorial. On 6 July 1990, after the official service in St Nicholas Kirk to mark the second anniversary of the disaster, a blessing service was held in the garden. The Aberdeen Press and Journal reported that it was "Here the anguish and grief of the past two years surfaced" as family members of those killed on Piper Alpha laid wreaths (07/07/1990 p.4, p.5).


On the third anniversary of 6 July 1991, Sue Jane Taylor's bronze memorial sculpture was finally unveiled by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at a ceremony attended by around a thousand guests. The chair of the Piper Alpha Families and Survivors Group described it as 'recognition' of those killed and the devastating impacts of the disaster (Aberdeen Evening Express, 06/07/91). Leading the service, Rev. Alan Swinton said, "three years later, we have a place of pilgrimage, a monument and shrine" (Aberdeen Press and Journal 08/07/91). As chaplain of the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Swinton had been involved in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and presided over later remembrance services. The night before the unveiling, he held a service just for the survivors and relatives, when a casket of unidentified human remains was placed inside the memorial (Lives in the Oil Industry Record Description: Alan Christie Swinton).


Over the next ten years, maintenance issues in the garden prompted the launch of a new charity, the Pound for Piper Memorial Trust. Set up in 2012, its intention was to raise enough money to restore the memorial and garden in time for the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster in 2013 (


With more donations from the oil and gas industry this time, the Trust organised a major programme of replanting. Cockers Roses of Aberdeen supplied over 11,000 roses in a range of colours and heights and drew up a planting plan with the Council. Some 10,200 hybrid tea and floribunda roses (58 varieties) along with 599 ground cover roses, 171 hybrid musk roses and 350 rugosa roses were added to the garden (information from Country Garden Roses 2013). New signage was erected at the garden entrance. The 25th anniversary was marked with a remembrance and a rededication ceremony. Further renovation works to the garden in 2018 included replacement benches, an access path from the Queen Mother Rose Garden, and further replacement of rose beds (Pound for Piper, Facebook 2022).


The garden continues to be the venue for anniversary memorial services every summer with the reading of the names of the 167 killed on Piper Alpha, a minute's silence and the laying of wreaths and flowers. The Pound for Piper Memorial Trust remains active in raising money for the upkeep of the gardens and have noted that that in contrast to the original fundraising, the oil and gas sector has given generous financial support to the garden since the rededication ceremony of 2013 (2023). In May 2022, the Pound for Piper Trust launched a redesign proposal with the confirmed support of the oil and gas sector. In June 2022, a petition with 5000 signatures was submitted to Aberdeen Council requesting the rejection of the redesign proposal (BBC 2022: Petition In May 2023, Aberdeen City Council announced that discussions were ongoing to decide the next steps and agree a way forward for the gardens (Aberdeen City Council 2023).


Other objects and sites associated with the Piper Alpha disaster include a condolence banner gifted by the Victorian Trade and Labour Council in Australia, and now in the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen, a stained-glass window in Ferryhill South Church, Fonthill Road, Aberdeen, dedicated 1994 (Listed category B, LB20689), and a memorial stone in Strathclyde Country Park commemorating the men lost from that region (erected 1992). The Oil Chapel in St Nicholas Kirk, Aberdeen (Listed category A, LB19966) was dedicated in 1990 to mark 25 years of North Sea oil. It contains a book of remembrance to all those who have died offshore in UK waters (The Oil Chapel,

Landscape Components

Architectural Features


The Piper Alpha Memorial (LB52621) is the central focus of the garden. Unveiled in 1991, it was executed by the artist, Sue Jane Taylor (b.1960) following a design brief by the Piper Alpha Memorial Committee.


The memorial consists of three 7-foot-high (2.1 metre high) cast bronze figures standing on a large square plinth of Pink Corennie granite Representing the platform's offshore workforce, they comprise a central mature figure facing north to the entrance of the gardens, a 'roustabout' figure facing west, and a 'survival suit' figure facing east (Taylor 2015: 162). A short inscription on the north face of the granite plinth dedicates the memorial to the memory of the 167 who lost their lives. Their names and ages are inscribed in alphabetical order on the east, west and south faces of the plinth. The names of the thirty men with no resting place on shore are inscribed in the centre of the south face, above a Celtic cross, and a casket of unknown ashes is interred behind the cross. The names of the two crewmen of the MV Sandhaven rescue vessel are inscribed, slightly apart from the others, on the east face of the plinth.


A rubble boundary wall divides the garden from the Queen Mother Rose Garden to the west and stone steps lead down into the garden from its northwest corner.

Paths & Walks


Straight axial paths cross the garden in a traditional formal layout and converge at the central Piper Alpha Memorial. Hard-surfaced paths lead to the memorial from the main north entrance and, since 2018, from the Queen Mother Rose Garden to the west. The remainder of the paths are mown grass.

The Gardens


Rectangular in plan, and measuring approximately 80 by 95 metres, the Piper Alpha Memorial Garden / North Sea Memorial Rose Garden is a large, formal-style rose garden conceived by David Welch in the later 1980s as a mirror-image extension to the adjacent Queen Mother Rose Garden. It was selected as a dedicated garden space for the Piper Alpha Memorial in early 1989. Planting was complete that year, and the garden won a special award in September 1989 (Aberdeen Evening Express 13/09/89).


The large granite and bronze memorial (unveiled 1991) is the central and dominant structural feature of the garden. Immediately surrounding the memorial are four central box-lined rose beds planted in the early years of the memorial garden with 167 separate roses, each symbolising a life lost. These are now maintained as simple rose beds (2023). Beyond these, mown grass paths separate rectilinear rose beds arranged in a repeating and symmetrical pattern, matching the design of the adjacent Queen Mother Garden. Each bed is planted with a different rose variety. A labelled plan on a mirror-faced information plinth at the garden's north entrance records the varieties in place in 2013, although many beds have been replanted with different varieties since then. Some beds are currently grassed (2023).


Wooden memorial benches are placed at the edges of the garden at regular intervals, facing inwards towards the memorial. Behind the benches, the garden is bounded and sheltered by deep planted beds of flowering shrubs, ferns and hedging that progressively step upwards in height. Some trees form part of the garden edge, for example at the entrance, the northeast corner, and along the southern edge. Beyond the garden perimeter, belts of taller, mature trees in Hazlehead Park give further shelter and enclosure.


The garden is open to the public as part of Hazlehead Park. Each year, on the anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, it becomes the venue of a formal memorial service during which the names of those killed on Piper Alpha are read out.


A memorial garden is a place where people and events can be remembered and commemorated within a tended environment. Often found within cemeteries and public parks, they are recognisable, bounded sites for private grief, contemplation, and shared mourning. They typically contain memorials, hard and soft landscaping, planting and garden furniture such as benches.


While their origins within the public realm can be traced back to the early garden cemeteries and crematoria landscapes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the memorial garden tradition developed most notably in the wake of the First World War when the sheer scale of loss and lack of individual foci for grief brought profound changes in attitudes to death and mourning (Grainger 2005: 267). This gave impetus to new forms of collective, public memorialisation.

Memorial gardens are no longer restricted to the context of wartime loss, but also commemorate other disasters involving major loss of life, such as Aberfan in 1966, Hillsborough in 1989, and in Scotland, the Auchengiech Colliery Disaster (1959), Lockerbie (1989) and the Dunblane massacre (1996).


More recent gardens respond to broader events engendering grief within a community, such as past practices around the cremation of babies (e.g. Rainbow Garden, Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen 2019), or the Covid-19 Pandemic, for example (The Good Grief Memorial Garden, Dundee, 2023).


While some war memorial garden sites are recognised through designation in the UK (e.g. Atholl Road, Pitlochry, Listed category C (LB47510); Walsall Memorial Garden, Walsall, Grade II Registered Garden (reference 1001423), more recent, non-military sites are generally less recognised in heritage terms. An exception is the Aberfan Garden of Remembrance, which was added to Cadw's Register of Parks and Gardens as part of a wider landscape designation in 2022 (Cadw, Register of Parks and Gardens).


People who study the significance and function of memorial gardens note their capacity to permit quiet contemplation set apart from the urban sphere and to encourage solace by evoking analogies between human life, the fragility and beauty of nature and the cyclical renewal of flowers and plants (Francis et al. 1999: 113; Garnaut et al. 2016; Gough 2007: 25). Bereavement practices in such spaces renew memories, create a sense of place and perpetuate meanings for individuals and communities (Cremaschi 2021; Gibbs and Phillips 2019). Meanwhile the careful tending of beds and plants by gardeners is thought to offer comfort as a "symbolic bulwark against disorder, decay and the…randomness of death" (Francis et al. 1999: 122), with roses emerging as a frequent planting choice, intensely symbolic of regeneration during the 20th century (ibid; Historic England 2014: 7). In some cases, researchers note that particular garden components can be invested with a very strong symbolism of those who have died, and whose remains are not physically present, such as the Norfolk Island Pine Trees for the First World War soldiers commemorated at Victor Harbor, Australia (Garnaut et al. 2016).


For the Piper Alpha Garden, the evidence provided in the course of this assessment through written submissions and conversations, together with other documentary sources highlights the cultural significance of the garden in ways that echo the observations above.


The evidence shows that both the physical and spatial properties of the garden and the various practices associated with it are strongly valued by people and serve to reinforce a strong connection to the Piper Alpha disaster and its many legacies.


  • The garden itself is appreciated as a work of art in its own right. People report admiration for its overall scale and design, the beauty and colour of the roses and its quiet and secluded character, which allows for peaceful contemplation within the comforting everyday surroundings of a larger public park.
  • The rose garden provides a uniquely dedicated and accessible place of intensely personal memory for those affected by the disaster. The centrepiece of the memorial enclosed by four central rose beds, previously planted with 167 roses to symbolise each life lost, holds special personal significance for some. During the anniversary service, when greater numbers gather, particular rose beds within the wider garden are 'adopted' by some family groups as areas to assemble around.
  • The dormant stages of the rose bushes can be valued as much as, or even more than, the flowering stage – evoking the cycle of life and death, regeneration, and hope for the future.
  • The garden is valued as a place of historic and cultural significance for the wider community to remember the disaster and its legacies within the context of the city of Aberdeen and its relationship with the North Sea oil and gas industry. The garden and memorial has also been a didactic space for teaching students about the impacts of the disaster and the evolution of Health and Safety legislation.
  • The garden and memorial are valued as testimony to the efforts and tenacity of the community of survivors and bereaved in securing agreement and funding for a permanent public memorial. In this context, the name Piper Alpha (Memorial) Garden is viewed positively as specific to the disaster (information provided during assessment). The name 'North Sea Memorial Rose Garden' is viewed negatively as a dilution of the specific association with Piper Alpha, and for its association with the wider North Sea Oil and Gas Industry, which is remembered by some for its lack of support and contribution to the original phase of fundraising for the memorial.


The memorial and the garden also have significance as rare physical markers of the cultural heritage of the North Sea oil and gas industry. While attention has focussed on the political and economic impacts of the industry, there is less recognition of its history, heritage and cultural impacts in the UK (Brotherstone and Manson 2007; Oglethorpe 2021). Two projects by the University of Aberdeen have responded to the challenge through the creation of a large archive of oral histories and through collecting and promoting the preservation of records (Lives in the Oil Industry (2000- 2005) and Capturing the Energy (2016-). However, there remains little recognition of the industry's built heritage. In this context, the Piper Alpha memorial and its garden setting remains a relatively rare physical expression in the public realm relating directly to the history and consequences of the industry (Brotherstone and Manson 2007: 33).


David Welch (1933-2000), the designer of the Piper Alpha Memorial Garden and the Queen Mother Rose Garden, was Aberdeen's Director of Parks from 1967–1992 (Sanders 2019: 151-154). He is remembered for introducing vast quantities of daffodils, crocuses and roses into Aberdeen's public spaces and for his renovation of the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park (GDL00166). During these years, Aberdeen became a repeat winner of Britain in Bloom. From 1992, David Welch became Chief Executive of London's Royal Parks where he is also known for his sensitive handling of the 10,000 tons of flower bouquets, toys and messages left in the parks after the death of Princess Diana (Sanders 2019: 152-153).



Historic Environment Scotland

Maps and Archives:

Aberdeen Evening Express

  • Piper's floral tribute wins judges' praise, 13 September 1989
  • Piper men remembered: Queen Mother unveils memorial 06 July 1991

Aberdeen Press and Journal

  • Memorial to pay tribute to North Sea Dead, Saturday 29 April 1989, p.1
  • Memorial plan facing cash crisis, Thursday 21 September 1989, p.2
  • Boost is sought for memorial statue fund, Friday 26 January 1990, p.44
  • The day they wept again for 167, Saturday 07 July 1990, p.4
  • Two years on, amid the grief and the tears, the anger and the bitterness, the Piper Alpha message is still 'We will never forget', Saturday 07 July 1990, p.5
  • Queen Mother unveils memorial, Monday 08 July 1991, p.6

Daily Record

  • 'Plea for Cash by Piper Alpha Women' Friday 08 September 1989, p.17

The Guardian

Lives in the Oil Industry: Oral History Archive and Associated Records, University of Aberdeen, MS 3769

Record description – Interview with Alan Christie Swinton (1926–2004),

Recording – Interview with Sue Jane Taylor (1960-) MS 3769/1/151

Printed sources

Brotherstone, T. and H. Manson 2007, 'North Sea Oil, its Narratives and its History: An Archive of Oral Documentation and the making of Contemporary Britain', Northern Scotland, vol. 27, 1, 15–41

Cremaschi, M. 2021, 'Place is memory: A framework for placemaking in the case of the human rights memorials in Buenos Aires' City, Culture and Society, 27

Cullen, W. D. 1990, The Public Enquiry into the Piper Alpha Disaster, Department of Energy,

Francis, D., G. Neophytou and L. Kellaher 1999, 'Kensington Gardens: From Royal Park to Temporary Cemetery' in Walter, T. (ed.) The Mourning for Diana, Berg: Oxford, 113–134

Garnaut, C.; J. Collins, L. Bird and E. Anderson 2016 'Cherished sites of remembrance: Soldiers' memorial gardens' in Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2016 available at [accessed 13 April 2023]

Gibbs, E. and J. Phillips 2019 'Remembering Auchengeich: the largest fatal accident in Scottish coal in the nationalised era' Scottish Labour History, 54, 47-57 [accessed 13 April 2023]

Gough, P. 2007, 'Planting Peace: The Greater London Council and the Community Gardens of Central London', International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol.13 (no. 1) 22-40

Grainger, H. J. 2005, Death Redesigned: British crematoria, history, architecture and landscape, Spire Books Ltd: Reading

Gunn, G 2022, 'From Piper Alpha to Piper Darvo' Opinion piece, 30 June 2022, Bella Caledonia [accessed 13 April 2023]

Historic England, 2014, War Memorial Parks and Gardens: Introductions to Heritage Assets, English Heritage

Kemp, A. G. 2012, The Official History of North Sea Oil and Gas. Vol. 1, The growing dominance of the state: Routledge: Abingdon

Kemp, A. G. 2012, The Official History of North Sea Oil and Gas. Vol. 2. Moderating the state's role, Routledge: Oxon

McGinty, S. 2008, Fire in the Night: The Piper Alpha Disaster, Macmillan: London

O'Byrne, C. 2011, Remembering the Piper Alpha Disaster, Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, vol. 37, 2, 90–104

Sanders, L. 2019, Unusual Aberdonians: 36ish Lives Less Ordinary in the North East of Scotland, Amazon

Taylor, Sue Jane 2005, Oilwork – North Sea Diaries, Birlinn: Edinburgh

Online sources:

Aberdeen City Council 2023, Update on Piper Alpha Memorial ahead of anniversary anniversary [accessed 26 June 2023].

Country Garden Roses 2013 – Blog: Alpha Piper Memorial Garden, / [accessed 2 May 2023]

BBC 2013, Piper Alpha: 25th anniversary of disaster remembered at ceremony, 6 July 2022 [accessed 2 May 2023]

BBC 2022, Petition against Piper Alpha Redesign Plans Handed In,, 6 June 2022 [accessed 2 May 2023]

Cadw, Register of Parks and Gardens: Aberfan: Cemetery, Garden of Remembrance and Former Tip and Slide Area Grade II* Designated 01/02/2022 https://cadwpublic- [accessed 2 May 2023]

Oglethorpe, M. 2021, Energy: Scotland's Forgotten Industrial Heritage? Part 2, Blog 21/07/21, Centre for Energy Ethics, University of St Andrews [accessed 2 May 2023]

Pound for Piper, [accessed 2 May 2023]

Facebook: Pound for Piper 2022 Summary Of Feedback Concerns and Responses, 24 May 2022, [accessed 2 May 2023]

The Oil Chapel, UK Oil and Gas Chaplaincy (ukoilandgaschaplaincy.com chapel ) [accessed 2 May 2023]

University of Aberdeen, Lives in the Oil Industry, Oral History of the UK North Sea Oil and Gas Industry,;

University of Aberdeen, Capturing the Energy, https://www.capturing-the-

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Piper Alpha Memorial Garden and Memorial from north, pink central path to memorial and rose beds in foreground, dark green trees and white/blue sky background

Printed: 13/07/2024 19:21