|Alma Square Garden||Westminster|
This is a private garden provided for the use of the inhabitants of the surrounding houses in Alma Square, which were built in the 1860s when the Eyre Estate was developed on what had been agricultural land. The garden was owned by the freeholders and managed by a committee elected by householders, each of whom was bound under their lease to pay an annual subscription to cover the maintenance of the gardens.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/08/2007
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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.
St John's Wood was part of the Great Forest of Middlesex and remained wooded in the medieval period. It was within the Manor of Lilestone (Lisson), owned from 1238 by the Knights Templar and then from 1323 by the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, from where the name St John's Wood comes. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the land passed to the Crown, and trees here were felled for Henry VIII' ships and royal palaces. By the mid C17th it was largely open grassland, an important source of hay for London's horses, and it remained in agricultural use until the late C18th. The Crown had begun to sell its land at St John's Wood from the early C18th, a large part of which was purchased by Henry Samuel Eyre in 1732 that included the site of Alma Square. Immediately to the west was a strip of land bequeathed to Harrow School by John Lyon who had acquired it in 1574. St John's Wood began to be gradually developed in the C19th, with the construction of main thoroughfares such as Abbey Road in 1824 and Wellington Road in 1826 acting as a spur to house building.
The Eyre Estate was first surveyed in 1794 in preparation for building, but this came to nothing. John Shaw then proposed a new plan for the estate in 1803, a grand scheme with a circus of houses with gardens, and a central pleasure ground, but this was only partly carried out. It was John Nash's commission of 1811 to lay out Marylebone Park, later known as Regent's Park (q.v.), together with the construction of the Regent's Canal in 1811-29, that eventually led to development of the Eyre Estate to begin in earnest. The underlying estate plan was less grand than Nash's, and sought to provide houses in substantial gardens for the middle classes. Building plots were leased with stipulations about provision of gardens and the height of surrounding walls, and, laid out on wide tree-lined avenues, this contributed to the leafy suburb that still endures.
The Stamford Map of 1862 shows the site of Alma Square still undeveloped open land, but by 1872 terraces of houses had been built to the north on Hill Street, south of which Alma Square was laid out with an elongated oblong garden overlooked by the rear ofboth terraces, bounded by the roadway to east and west. In the surrounding area particularly to the south were substantial properties with large gardens, possibly a nursery to the south of the square, later built over as Hamilton Gardens. At that time the Alma Square garden layout is shown with a perimeter path, a central gate at each short end linked across the garden by a central path running south-west to north-east interrupted by a large circular path around a central feature; scattered trees are shown and an avenue planted flanking the southern perimeter path. By 1894 the circular path has disappeared, replaced by a cruciform path layout meeting at the centre, the perimeter paths remaining the same, and larger number of trees shown. By this time Hamilton Gardens terraces had been built, and the terrace formerly known as Alma Square now called Hamilton Gardens. The Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares described Alma Square Garden in 1928 as an 'oblong area flanked on two opposite sides by the rear of buildings and two shorter sides by public roads. A well-kept and attractive ornamental garden, adding considerably to the amenities of the dwelling-houses adjoining it.' The late C19th layout is shown unchanged on later maps. Within the garden today is a mulberry tree.
D V H Eyre, 'The Garden Enclosures of Squares in the City of Westminster: Past, Present & Future', (1995, unpublished); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; WCC St John's Wood Conservation Area Audit, 2008