Cartwright Gardens was built as part of the Skinners Company estate. This development included Burton Crescent constructed 1809-1811 and named after its builder and developer, James Burton. The crescent-shaped garden was laid out around 1818 and is shown on Greenwood’s map of 1830 with a perimeter path and a screen of perimeter trees or shrubs. In the centre were two oval areas of what was probably lawn, enclosed by paths, and between the two were triangular shrubberies. Burton Crescent was renamed Cartwright Gardens after the political reformer and local resident John Cartwright. A bronze statue by George Clarke was added to the garden in 1831set on a granite plinth that has details of Cartwright's works as a reformer. The garden is enclosed by iron railings, with mature plane trees, laid out with grass and circular walks. Two hard tennis courts cover half its area, added in the early C20th. At one corner stands a single storey rusticated lodge of red brick. The current path layout (2011) remains broadly the same as that depicted in 1830.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2011
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The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
Cartwright Gardens, July 2002. Photo: S Williams
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Cartwright Gardens, formerly Burton Crescent, was built as part of the Skinners Company estate. The Company is one of the ‘Great Twelve’ livery companies with a history going back some 700 years. It had developed from the medieval trade guild of the furriers, and their estate lies to the north-west of Holborn, formerly extending north across Euston Road. The estate was originally known as Sandhill(s) or Sandfield and was in the possession of Michael Englisshe in 1552. Sir Andrew Judd (Lord Mayor of London in 1558) acquired it from James Gates and Thomas Thorogood for £346 6s. 8d. in 1572 and vested it in the Skinners Company as Trustees on behalf of his Free Grammar School (now Judd School) at Tonbridge, Kent under an Act of 1572. In the deed of trust he describes it as ‘a close of pasture with appurtenances called the Sandhills situate, lying, and being on the back side of Holborn in the Parish of St Pancras, of the yearly value of £13 6s. 8d’. It remained farmland until the C19th, its principal building being Bowling Green House with two bowling greens, situated on the site of the present Judd Street to the south of Euston Road. In 1785 the site of Cartwright Gardens was described as ‘grass land’.
The site of Cartwright Gardens is shown as open fields on Horwood’s map of 1792-9. On John Tompson's map of c.1803 the site of Cartwright Gardens is in fields bounded by the New (Euston) Road to the north. Part of the estate was leased to James Burton (1761-1837) in 1807. Burton was a builder and developer largely responsible for the development of the Foundling and Bedford Estates in Bloomsbury and he built many of Nash’s terraces in Regents Park. His final major development was the creation of the East Sussex coastal resort of St Leonards. John Summerson in Georgian London wrote that he was the father of Decimus Burton, who does not deserve to be so very much more famous than his extraordinary father. Burton Crescent, consisting of 37 houses with its garden, is the key point to James Burton’s simple but effective design of the Skinners Company's estate. He began building on the site in 1809 with most houses in place by 1811. On the crescent, those of the original houses that remain date to c.1809-11 and are numbered Nos.27-63.
Horwood’s map of 1813 shows the houses in place on Burton Crescent but no detail in the garden. This may mean that it had not yet been landscaped as detailed designs for other square gardens in the vicinity such as Russell, Tavistock and Brunswick Squares (q.q.v.), are shown. The Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares (1928) describes the garden as being laid out in the year 1818. It is not known who designed the original layout.
Greenwood’s map of 1830 shows the garden with a perimeter path and perimeter trees or shrubs., but no entrances are indicated. Inside, two large oval areas, possibly of lawn, are enclosed by paths and two triangular shrubberies lie between the two. No central trees or other features are shown.
Major John Cartwright (1740-1824), the political reformer, lived at No.37 Burton Crescent from 1820-1824. He was a naval officer and prominent campaigner for parliamentary reform and subsequently became known as the ‘Father of Reform’. After leaving the navy, he wrote and published 'Take Your Choice' (1776) where he argued the case for parliamentary reform including: manhood suffrage, the secret ballot, annual elections and equal electoral districts. The book created a great deal of interest and as a result Cartwright formed the ‘Society for Constitutional Information’. He died on 23 September 1824 at his house. A statue of him by George Clarke was set up in the gardens in 1831 in front of his house. The statue shows the seated bronze figure of Cartwright on a granite pedestal with a bronze plaque giving details of his career as a political reformer.
John Britton’s map of 1834 shows Burton Crescent and the surrounding streets laid out. The garden can be seen with closely spaced perimeter trees and a perimeter path but no more detail. The central area appears to be laid to lawn. At this time, residents were distinguished professional people, principally solicitors, surgeons and writers; the area was later described as ‘designed for a superior class of tenants’. Famous residents include Dr. Cooper, possibly Daniel Cooper, author of Flora Metropolitana and curator of the Botanical Society of London, and Sir Rowland Hill who introduced the penny post. Stanford’s map of 1862 shows a green space with two rows of closely spaced perimeter trees with a perimeter path between the two rows. There are two central trees shown but no other details. The Weller map of 1868 shows little detail but the statue of Cartwright is labelled.
The 1874 Town Plan OS map of London and the 1876 OS map show the garden in detail. There are four entrances on the crescent side and one next to the Cartwright statue. Perimeter trees and a perimeter path appear to be in a similar position to those seen on the 1830 map. Shrubbery areas or beds can also be seen around the perimeter. There is no indication of the double rows of trees as seen on Stanford’s map. Inside the garden are two large oval areas, probably lawn, enclosed by paths as seen on the 1830 map are shown as well as two small shrubbery areas. Cartwright’s statue is shown between two more shrubbery areas, in a similar position as the two triangular shrubberies seen on the 1830 map. Four large central trees are scattered around on the oval grassed areas. A small building at the north end is reached from a north-south path with an illegible word, possibly well, next to it. In 1878 there was an unsolved ‘Burton Crescent Murder’, the victim, Rachel Samuel, was an elderly widow. In 1884 a licence from the Skinners Company allowed the vestry of the parish of St Pancras to erect a gardener's lodge in the garden. Perhaps this replaced the building seen on the 1876 map as the map of 1896 depicts the small northern building as ‘lodge’. A large number of trees, both small and large, are shown in the garden, but they appear to be stylized. The survey of the Skinners Estate of 1898 shows the streets with no other detail, but still names the street as Burton Crescent. The 'respectable' residents of Burton Crescent petitioned the parish council for a name change due to the notoriety that Burton Crescent had gained because of the murder. The crescent was renamed Cartwright Gardens in 1908. The garden was leased to St Pancras Borough Council by 1912. By 1916, the map shows the crescent renamed Cartwright Gardens but there was no change shown on the map to the garden layout. The Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares (1928) mentions the garden as being owned by the Skinners Company as governors of Andrew Judd’s foundation. The governors allowed the lessees of houses in Cartwright Gardens to use the garden. It was described as being surrounded by a sparse privet hedge with one half laid out as ornamental garden with lawn, and the other half with tennis courts. This represents a major change to the garden’s layout with the central trees indicated on the 1876 OS map now removed and tennis courts inserted.
The first available photographs begin to show the plants used in the garden. Photographs dated 1938 show the perimeter bed planted with shrubs, the lodge with an entrance off the north side and a line of mature perimeter trees at the north end. Original railings can also be seen. Another photograph of the same date shows the perimeter path, a central lawn and at least two central beds planted with what appear to be roses. The eastern side of Cartwright Gardens suffered damage during WWII with Nos.1 to 6 subsequently demolished. North of this, the middle range was replaced by modern flats and Nos.19 to 26 were demolished above the ground storey. Photographs and OS maps from the 1950s depict changes to the design of the garden. A photograph of 1951 shows the Cartwright statue against a backdrop of shrubs, located on an area possibly of tarmac. The photograph shows a c.2m high wire fence around the square garden; it is probable that the railings were taken for the war effort. The OS map of 1954 shows the two tennis courts inserted into the oval areas and although the path pattern remained the same, the central trees have been removed. The shrubbery areas appear to have remained similar to that depicted on the 1874 map. However only three entrances can be seen on this map, two on the crescent side and one by the statue. A photograph of 1960 shows the tennis courts with a grass area around them and a rose bed cut into the grass area up against the perimeter path. Three large mature perimeter trees can also be seen as well as replaced railings.
Today (July 2011) the garden broadly retains its 1830 layout albeit with some changes. Crescent-shaped and aligned north-south, measuring some 150m in length and 50m at its widest point, the garden is enclosed by iron railings c.2m high with five entrances. One is a double-gated entrance on the west side at the north corner, which leads to the lodge and an area fenced off for compost bins. Two single gates are located further to the south also on the west side. Another single gate at the north end leads to the lodge’s door and a further single gate leads to the Cartwright statue on the east side. Two of the western entrances and the eastern entrance by the statue are in the same positions as shown on the 1874 and 1954 maps but the others are later additions. The path layout appears to be in a similar position as shown on the 1830 map although the east-west path that runs between the two tennis courts now extends to the statue. Perimeter trees and shrubberies are in a similar position as shown on the OS map of 1874. Perimeter beds are situated inside the railings running the length of the garden except at the south end where there are no beds. The beds contain about ten mature London plane trees and a few more recently planted trees. They also contain shrubs including roses, spotted laurel, lilac and Forsythia sp. The beds are not edged except on the western side where they are mostly edged with black scalloped-top ceramic tiles. Additional beds include a central circular bed planted with Hypericum sp and a circular rose bed cut into the lawn towards the north end. Two other quarter-circular rose beds edged with black straight tiles on edge are cut into the lawns either side of the statue. There are a few scattered central trees but the central grassed area is dominated by the tennis courts. The prominent historical feature is the Cartwright statue. At the north end is a small building of mainly yellow stock and red brick, with windows and door boarded up which is probably the gardener’s lodge mentioned in the 1884 licence. Around the lodge is a path of crazy paving and a low (about six courses) wall of brick and what appears to be kiln waste or burnt ceramics, as well as stone. The lodge and statue remain in the same position as shown on the 1874 OS map. Other furniture includes a few litter bins but there is no signboard or lighting. The square is kept locked and is not accessible to the public.
Cartwright Gardens are still owned by The Skinners Company and leased to the University of London, who are the permitted keyholders of the garden. Local residents have set up a website including a history of the area.
Pevsner; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; W H Godfrey and W McB Marcham, (eds) ‘The parish of St Pancras’, Survey of London vol 24, 1952 pp83-93; J Summerson, 'Georgian London' (rev ed ed by H Colvin 2003), London: Yale University Press.
LPGT Volunteer Research by Carrie Cowan, 2011.