We’ve finished our series on historic London garden squares, so before we launch our next series, here’s a recap…
10 (more) historic London garden squares
10 (more) historic London garden squares…10. Fitzroy Square…
This Georgian square, like the nearby (and famous) Fitzroy Tavern, Fitzroy Street and Fitzrovia itself, owes its names to the FitzRoy family who owned the land on which it was built.
It was Charles FitzRoy, 1st Baron Southampton, who had the area developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries with the aim of creating a desirable location for aristocratic families to live.
It was completed in stages with residences along the eastern and southern sides built first – from the 1790s – by Robert and James Adam (the southern side was destroyed in the Blitz but has been rebuilt).
The Napoleonic Wars then interrupted construction and it wasn’t until the late 1820s and early 1830s that the northern and western sides were completed.
Notable residents included painter James McNeill Whistler (number eight), Sir Charles Eastlake, first director of the National Gallery (number seven), Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (number 21 – now home to the High Commission of Mozambique), George Bernard Shaw (number 29 – later also briefly home to Virginia Woolf), and artists Ford Madox Brown (number 37) and Roger Fry (number 33)
In more recent times, the square has been home to the likes of the late media tycoon Robert Maxwell (number six), and novelist Ian McEwan (number 11 – he made the square the main location for his 2005 novel, Saturday).
The garden was first laid out in about 1790, initially just for the use of residents. Monuments now include Naomi Blake’s View, erected for the Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.
The square was largely pedestrianised in the 1970s and upgraded in 2008.
PICTURES: Top – View of Fitzroy Square from the former BT Tower (Rain Rabbit/CC BY-NC 2.0/image cropped); Below – View (James Stringer/CC BY-NC 2.0/)
10 (more) historic London garden squares…9. Manchester Square…
This Marylebone square is one of the better preserved Georgian-era squares in London.
Located on the Portman Estate, it was laid out in the 1770s as a residential square with the north side of the square dominated by Manchester House, built in the 1770s as the home of the 4th Duke of Manchester (from whom the house and square, now derive their name).
The house, meanwhile, changed its name when the 2nd Marquess of Hertford took over the lease in 1797. It became known as Hertford House and now houses The Wallace Collection (pictured below), a collection of artworks left to the nation – along with the house – by Lady Wallace, widow of Sir Richard Wallace, illegitimate son of 4th Marquess, in 1897, and opened to the public as a museum in 1900.
The almost circular private gardens in the centre were laid out in the mid-1770s with garden beds and railings (there was apparently a church planned for the centre of the square on which the gardens were located, but it was never built).
During World War II, trenches were dug in the garden and railings removed and the gardens did receive some bomb damage but they were restored in the 1960s and then extensively replanted in the mid-Noughties. The garden (pictured above, looking south) features mature London plane and lime trees.
Famous residents in the square, which has now largely been converted to offices, have included German-born composer Sir Julius Benedict (he lived at number two), surgeon and neurologist John Hughlings Jackson (number three) and colonial administrator Alfred, Lord Milner (number 14) – all of which have English Heritage Blue Plaques on their former properties – as well as Admiral Sir Thomas Foley (number one).
The square, which, along with Portman Square is Grade II-listed, also become briefly famous in around 1815 when it was reported a “pig-faced woman” lived there.
It is also known for being the former site of record label EMI – the cover shot for the Beatles’ first LP, Please Please Me, was shot in the modernist building’s stairwell in 1963 (the building has since been demolished but EMI took part of the staircase with them when they left in 1995).
Interestingly, Manchester Square Fire Station, which was decommissioned in 2005, was actually located a few blocks away in Chiltern Street (it was also known as the Chiltern Firehouse).
PICTURES: Google Maps
10 (more) historic London garden squares…8. Salisbury Square…
This City of London square sits on the part of the site of what had been Salisbury House, the town house of the bishops of Salisbury.
The house, which later became known as Dorset House, burned down in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the square, now at the southern end of Salisbury Court, developed in its aftermath.
Lying just to the south of Fleet Street, the square was once home to the Salisbury Court Theatre in the mid-17th century and John Dryden lived here from 1673 to 1682, a period during which he wrote works including Amboyna (1673), All for Love (1678) and The Spanish Fryar (1681). It was also a popular place for actors to reside given its proximity to the Dorset Garden Theatre which was also built on part of the site of Salisbury House.
There was an alehouse here when King George I acceded to the throne – known as a locale frequented by his supporters, it was famous for an incident in 1716 in which it was stormed by a Jacobite mob during which the landlord shot a weaver (he was acquitted but five rioters were hanged at the end of the court.
Samuel Richardson ran a printing shop lived here from 1723 – Pamela was among the works he wrote here. He later pulled down some old residences to expand his printing operations (and it was in his house that Dr Samuel Johnson and William Hogarth first met).
In 1863, all the houses on the south side were replaced by the Salisbury Hotel and this was replaced in the 1960s by Salisbury Square House when the square was remodelled and the central area laid out. Only number one remains of the early 18th century houses which once stood here.
The now largely paved square features garden boxes in the middle along with an obelisk commemorating Robert Waithman, Lord Mayor of London between 1823-24. It had apparently originally been erected in Farringdon Street but was moved here in the 1970s.
PICTURE: Google Maps.
10 (more) historic London garden squares…7. Belgrave Square…
This expansive square in the centre of Belgravia is one of the largest 19th century squares in London.
The square, which along with nearby Chester Square, Eaton Square and Wilton Crescent stands on land once known as Five Fields, was laid out in the 1820s on the orders of Robert Grosvenor, 2nd Earl Grosvenor, whose subsidiary title was Viscount Belgrave and who later become the first Marquess of Westminster (and whose family seat is Eaton Hall in Cheshire, close to the village of Belgrave from whence the name comes).
Property contractor Thomas Cubitt was responsible for the masterplan and architect George Basevi, a pupil of Sir John Soane and cousin of Benjamin Disraeli, had the task of designing the original four terraces which surrounded the square.
Most of the houses were occupied by 1840. Today, the buildings – many of which are listed – are home to numerous embassies and official residences of ambassadors.
These include the Portuguese Embassy (11 to 12), the Austrian Ambassador’s official residence (18 – the Austrians have been there since 1866 when it was used by members of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Foreign Service), the High Commission of Brunei (20), the German Embassy (21-23), the Spanish Embassy (number 24), the Norwegian Embassy (25), the Serbian Embassy (28) and the Turkish Embassy (43).
Famous residents have included the currently Duke of Kent – he was born at number three in 1935, Victorian politician Sir George Murray, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, who lived at number five up until his death in 1846, and shipbuilder, Lord Pirrie, chairman of Belfast-based Harland and Wolff – builder of the RMS Titanic (in fact it’s said that it was at a dinner here which Lord Pirrie hosted and J Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, attended where plans to build the ship were first discussed).
The two hectare garden in the centre, which remains closed to the public and is Grade II listed, had gravel walks laid out in the 1850s (the current design is a restoration of what was there in the 1860s). Behind the railings, the gardens features wooden pergolas and shelters and a tennis court.
Among the monuments around the external perimeter of the square are statues of of South American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), Argentinean national hero General Jose de San Martin (1778-1850), Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) and Prince Henry the Navigator. There’s also a 1998 statue of Robert Grosvenor by Jonathan Wylder on the corner of Wilton Crescent.
Within the gardens are Homage to Leonardo da Vinci, erected in 1982, and a bust of George Basevi, the architect of Belgrave Square.
Top – Statue of Prince Henry the Navigator; Below – The Spanish Embassy. PICTURES: David Adams
10 (more) historic London garden squares…6. St George’s Square…
This rather long square in Pimlico was laid out in the mid-19th century and is, like the church parish in which it stands (St George Hanover Square), named after the patron saint of England.
Development of the area, owned by the Marquess of Westminster, was underway by 1835 and by the early 1840s, the formal square had been laid out. The construction of homes – and the lay-out of the square itself – was supervised by Thomas Cubitt and the first residents moved in the 1850s.
The north end of the square is home to the Church of St Saviour, designed by Thomas Cundy the Younger and constructed in 1864, which shields the remainder of the square from Lupus Street.
The square, now looked after by the City of Westminster, was apparently popular thanks to its being the only residential square open to the Thames (across Grosvenor Road. Until 1874, it had its own pier for watercraft to pull up to.
Famous residents in the square include Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who died at number 26 in 1912, author Dorothy L Sayers, albeit briefly, and Nobel laureate and scientist Francis Crick, who lived at number 56 between 1945 and 1947.
The Thames is located opposite the square’s southern end, across Pimlico Gardens. The gardens feature a statue of MP William Huskisson, the first person to be run over and killed by a railway engine. The work of John Gibson, the Grade II-listed statue, which depicts Huskisson in Roman dress, is a copy of one which was originally placed in Huskisson’s mausoleum in St James’s Cemetery. It first stood in Liverpool Customs House but Gibson wasn’t satisfied with the location so it was moved to the office of Lloyds of London in the Royal Exchange and then again to its current location in 1915.
PICTURE: Top – Homes in St George’s Square (James Stringer/licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); Below – The north of the square looking towards St Saviour Church (Philip Halling/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)
10 (more) historic London garden squares…5. Brunswick Square…
This Bloomsbury square is another that’s one of a pair – in this case with Mecklenburgh Square which stands on the other side of the site of the now-demolished Foundling Hospital (across what’s now known as Coram’s Fields).
The three acre square was planned by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, who was appointed to develop the estate around the hospital with the intention of maintaining some open space around the hospital while allowing spare land to be leased for housing (and so raise some much needed funds for the hospital).
The square was over the period 1795-1802 while the gardens in the square’s middle were laid out in in the late 1790s (initially for use by residents only, they’re now open to the public).
The name comes from Caroline of Brunswick, wife of the then Prince Regent (later King George IV).
The square, which is Grade II-listed along with Coram’s Fields and Mecklenburgh Square, was a respectable if not highly fashionable residential location.
Famous residents have included numerous members of the Bloomsbury Group such as siblings Virginia (later Woolf) and Adrian Stephen, economist John Maynard Keynes and Leonard Woolf – all of whom lived in the same property (Virginia and Leonard moved out of the square when they married in 1912) as well as EM Forster. Writer JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, also lived for a time in a house overlooking the square.
Jane Austen refers to the square in Emma in which her sister Isabella praises it as “very superior to most others” and “very airy”.
All of the original buildings around the square have since been demolished and replaced – among them number is 40 which was built for the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children in the 1920s and now houses the Foundling Museum (there’s a statue of the hospital’s founder Thomas Coram outside by William MacMillan – pictured right).
The north side of the square is home to the UCL School of Pharmacy, the west side features tiered apartments which form part of the Grade II-listed Brunswick Centre development, which dates from the late 1960s and early 1970s, while on the south side is the university residence known as International Hall.
The gardens were extensively renovated in 2002-03 by Camden Council; works which included restoration of railings apparently taken for munitions during World War II. Its trees include a London plane tree, said to be the second oldest in London, which in 2009 was declared one of the Great Trees of Britain.
On one of the garden’s railings, close to the statue of Captain Coram, is a tiny bronze sculpture of a mitten by artist Tracey Emin, a fitting symbol of the childhoods connected with the Foundling Hospital.
PICTURES: Top – Looking across Brunswick Square Gardens (Google Maps); Right – Thomas Coram (David Adams).
10 (more) historic London garden squares…4. Red Lion Square…
This Holborn square was laid out in the 1680s by property speculator Nicholas Barbon and took its name from the Red Lion Inn which once stood here.
The inn, incidentally, is said to be the place where the exhumed bodies of Oliver Cromwell, his son-in-law (and Parliamentarian general) Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw, president of the parliamentary commission to try King Charles I, lay the night before they were taken to Tyburn where they were desecrated (there’s a story that the bodies were switched that night and the real men lay buried in a pit in a square).
The square was laid out on what had been known as Red Lion fields and there were apparently some physical scuffles between the workmen, led by Barbon, and lawyers of Gray’s Inn who objected to the loss of their rural vistas.
The square, meanwhile, soon became a fashionable part of the city – among early residents was Judge Bernard Halle – but by the mid-19th century, its reputation had slumped only to move up again in later years.
Famous residents included Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1851 and William Morris who lived in a flat on the southern side of the square with Edward Burne-Jones in the later 1850s. The art deco Summit House was built in 1925 on the former residence of John Harrison, inventor of the marine chronometer. Jonas Hanway, the first man to walk London’s streets with an umbrella, apparently also lived on the square.
The square today is home to the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Conway Hall, home of the Conway Hall Ethical Society (in fact, it was Conway Hall which was at the centre of one of the most famous incidents in the square – clashes between anti-fascist protestors and National Front members and subsequent police response which took place on 15th June, 1974, and left a university student, Kevin Gately, dead.
The garden in the centre of the square features a statue of anti-war activist Fenner Brockway and a bust of philosopher, essayist and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell.
PICTURE: Top – View across part of the square (Google maps)/Below – Fenner Brockway statue (Matt Brown/licensed under CC BY 2.0)
10 (more) historic London garden squares…3. Gordon Square…
This Bloomsbury garden square, a pair with Tavistock Square located a short distance to the north-east, was developed in the 1820s with residences designed by master builder Thomas Cubitt and his company.
Its name comes from the family of the then land-owner, John Russell, the Duke of Bedford – Lady Georgina Gordon was the second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford (her father was Alexander Gordon, the fourth Duke of Gordon).
The square initially contained a private garden, designed by the 6th Duke of Bedford himself, which was reserved for residents. Now open to the public, the garden underwent a refurbishment, restoring the original railings, in the early 2000s and was reopened by Princess Anne in 2007.
Originally residential (although while it attracted some professionals and their families, it was never as popular as nearby Russell Square), the buildings on the square are now predominantly occupied by departments and institutes of the University of London. The university purchased the square, along with Woburn Square, in 1951.
On the west side of the square stands the university church, the Grade I-listed Church of Christ the King, which dates from the 1850s, while nearby is Dr Williams’s Library, founded in 1729 and moved here in 1890.
The square is generally considered the epicentre of the Bloomsbury Group of writers, artists and intellectuals with Virginia Woolf (then Stephens) among its residents. She lived at number 46 between 1904 and 1907, with her sister Vanessa, who, following her marriage to Clive Bell, continued to live there until 1917.
Another member of the Bloomsbury Group, economist John Maynard Keynes, lived in the house after that. Writer Lytton Strachey, another member of the group, lived at number 51 from 1909 to 1924.
Philosopher and essayist Bertrand Russell lived at number 57 between 1918-19.
PICTURES: Top – Gordon Square (Jay Bergesen/licensed under CC BY 2.0) Right – 46 Gordon Square (Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons /
10 (more) historic London garden squares…2. Golden Square…
This Soho square was laid out in the late 17th century, possibly by Sir Christopher Wren, and by the early 1700s most of the buildings surrounding the square were complete.
The name of the square is said to be a corruption of ‘gelding’ – the area, once apparently known as Gelding Close, was previously used for the grazing of geldings (there’s also a story that the gelding was featured on a nearby inn sign which locals objected to, renaming it ‘golden’).
It was, at first, the place to be among the well-to-do – among early residents were Barbara Villiers, the Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of King Charles II, James Bridges, who became the 1st Duke of Chandos, and Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, a favourite of Queen Anne.
By the mid 18th century, however, the trendy crowd had moved to developments further west and the square subsequently became noted for the high number of foreign delegations which made their base here, including those of Bavaria, Russia, Genoa and Portugal, as well as foreign artists including Swiss painter Angelica Kauffmann – the first female member of the Royal Academy, and Anglo-Irish painter (and later Royal Academy president) Martin Archer Shee.
Other famous residents have included dancer Elizabeth Gamberini, singer Caterina Gabrielli and Scottish anatomist John Hunter (his former home is one of two marked with English Heritage Blue Plaques in the square). Thomas Jefferson, later a US president, stayed in Golden Square during March and April, 1786, in his only visit to London.
A couple of houses in the square – then occupied by the Bavarian minister Count Haslang – were attacked during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots. These properties were bought by James Talbot, the Roman Catholic Bishop for London, in 1788, so the Roman Catholic Church in Warwick Street could be build in the gardens behind.
The square had deteriorated somewhat by the time Charles Dickens placed it in his late 1830s story Nicholas Nickleby as the home of Ralph Nickleby, and it become the location of numerous boarding houses and small hotels as well as various professionals.
By 1900 the square had become closely connected with the wool trade with as many as 70 firms connected with it located here. Several such firms are apparently still located here but the square is better known these days for companies associated with the movie business.
The middle of the square was dug up for an air raid shelter in World War II but it was paved afterwards and the statue of King George II, attributed to John Van Nost and erected here in 1753 as part of beautification project (it has been suggested the statue actually represents King Charles II but that remains a matter of conjecture), returned to its place in the middle.
None of the original houses now remain but there are a number of residences which still have at least elements dating from late 18th century rebuilds including numbers 11, 21, 23 and 24.
PICTURE: Top – David Iliff (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0); Right – David Adams; Below – RozSheffield (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)