|Carlton House Terrace Gardens||Westminster|
Carlton House Terrace Gardens comprise two main enclosures, laid out on part of the former site of C18th Carlton House and its grounds. The site has a lengthy history: it was part of a Royal deer park and gardens of Charles II's Palace of St James. Carlton House became the home of Frederick Prince of Wales and later the Prince Regent but on his accession, George IV took Buckingham Palace as his residence. Carlton House was demolished in 1827 and Carlton House Terrace and Carlton Gardens were built as a revenue-generating scheme. Designed by John Nash, it included 3 ornamental gardens, together with other landscaped areas. Many of the C19th houses survive and the area remains part of the Crown Estate.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/02/2006
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Photo: Gavin Gardiner
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The gardens are on part of the former site of Carlton House and its grounds, which was demolished in 1827 when Carlton House Terrace and Carlton Gardens were built as a revenue-generating scheme to attract the 'best sort of people'. The gardens associated with this scheme comprise those behind the Institute of Directors east of Waterloo Place (Garden No.1), those behind the Athenaeum west of Waterloo Place (Garden No.2), Wool House Garden (Garden No.3), two gardens flanking the steps by the Duke of York statue, the Foreign Secretary's residence turning circle, and gardens on and adjoining the podium. These were all laid out by David Ramsay of Stanhope Nursery, Brompton. The Carlton House Terrace Gardens, either side of Waterloo Place, occupy the western portion of the terrace laid out on the site of the gardens of Carlton House. Carlton House itself had been built on part of the site of the former Royal Garden of St James's Palace, remodelled in 1813 by John Nash, but earlier than that it was part of the Royal deer park. In 1531 Henry VIII had obtained the land to build St James's Palace from a number of sources: Westminster Abbey, St James's Hospital, which had been founded in the C11th as a colony for 14 leper women, and 185.5 acres from the College of the Blessed Mary at Eton. St James Field became meadowland and in James I's reign a grove of elm trees was planted from Spring Garden to the palace, with the garden and the Wilderness laid out. By 1693 most of the Wilderness was being used as a covert for deer.
The Royal gardens were a venue for parties and fetes of two Princes of Wales, Frederick (father of George III), and George (later George IV), the latter's residence when he was Prince Regent. Among those associated with the gardens over this period were Andre Mollet, Charles II's gardener; Royal Gardener Henry Wise (1653-1738); William Kent; Humphry Repton and John Nash. The name derives from Henry Boyle who in 1709 was granted by Queen Anne a 31 year lease on the Wilderness and the part of the Royal garden not given to Sarah Duchess of Marlborough; in 1714 he was made Baron Carleton, and the name became attached to the property from thenceforth. After his death in 1725 his property was inherited by his nephew Richard, 3rd Earl of Burlington, who sold it in 1732 to Frederick Prince of Wales, for whom William Kent designed the garden, which was planted with hundreds of trees of different species, and had an octagonal pavilion that had busts of King Alfred and the Black Prince. After the death of the Dowager Princess Augusta in 1772 Carlton House appears to have been empty until 1783, when it was given to George, Prince of Wales, who effectively rebuilt the house although he appears not to have made many changes to the garden. Humphry Repton was consulted in 1803 and his proposals included shutting out views inwards from the Mall and opening up a vista over St James's Park to Westminster Abbey. The main purpose of the gardens appears to have been to provide a setting for the Prince's elaborate parties; J C Loudon later described the gardens in 1822 as 'secluded but not much enriched with flowers or in high keeping'.
After he became king in 1820 George IV decided to use Buckingham Palace as his residence and to demolish Carlton House and lay out the site as 'building ground for dwelling houses of the First Class' for 'persons of the highest social rank'. Authorisation to demolish Carlton House was given in 1826 and the site was placed in the hands of the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues. The overall scheme was designed by John Nash who proposed three blocks of nine houses (the third was to replace Marlborough House). As a result Carlton House Terrace was built in 1827-32 and, following the decision not to demolish Marlborough House, a terrace of 7 houses called Carlton Gardens was built in the space up to the Marlborough House grounds (q.v.) in 1830-33. In January 1827 the Treasury had also ordered improvements to St James's Park for which Nash designed the serpentine water, and the planting was superintended by his gardener from East Cowes. Carlton House Terraces Nos. 1 and 2 were designed by John Nash and No. 3 by Decimus Burton. On the site of Carlton House, two gentlemen's clubs took leases and built new club houses, the United Services Club (later taken by the Institute of Directors) employing Nash as their architect and the Athenaeum choosing Burton.
Waterloo Place was Nash's southern terminus for Regent Street and in the central space between the two blocks he had intended to have a domed fountain, re-using columns from the portico of Carlton House, to act as a focal point at the end of Regent Street and Waterloo Place without obscuring the view of St James's Park. In the end the fountain was not built and its place taken by the column surmounted by the statue of 'The Grand Old Duke of York', Frederick August, with steps down to the Mall. The Duke had died in 1827 and the bronze statue by Richard Westmacott on its Tuscan granite column designed by Benjamin Dean Wyatt was erected at a cost of £26,000 raised by public subscription.
A variety of gardens were laid out, as shown in a plan of 1834-5 by Charles Mayhew (Survey of the Crown Estate, Sheet No.36, 1834), the three main ones numbered 1 to 3 from east to west. James Pennethorne, who became Nash's chief assistant, made his first garden plan in 1828, which included a symmetrical segmented oval shape reminiscent of Repton in Garden No.2. In December 1829 the Treasury authorised expenditure of £853 on laying out three Ornamental Public Gardens on the north side of the street and invited tenders. This was won by David Ramsay of Stanhope Nursery, Brompton, and in December 1830 he wrote to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to say he had 'finished laying out and planting the three Public Squares on the site of Carlton Palace' and requested further payment for 'planting the inner quadrangle (between Sir A[lexander] Grant's house and that of Mr Coesvelt) not included in the original specifications'. This is what is referred to as the turning circle, which Nash designed as a 'common Entrance to those four houses'.
In April 1832 management of the gardens was transferred to the 'Commissioners for Paving, Lighting &c Regents Park, Regent Street', who accepted the lowest tender of £35 for maintaining gardens Nos. 1, 2 and 3 from John Edlin of Queen's Road, Pentonville, compared to Ramsay's tender of £100. However, in the following year, 1833, both contractors were invited to tender to lay out the two gardens by the steps by Duke of York's column, and although Ramsay appears to have succeeded, Edlin was later contracted for the maintenance. The podium of the Terrace appears to have had an ongoing problem with maintenance; it was largely gravelled and at various times parts were planted with grass.
After WWII the terrace at the side of Carlton Gardens was connected to the Mall by a double staircase designed by Louis de Soissons that framed a bronze statue of George VI in Garter robes by W McMillan, which was unveiled on 21 October 1955.
The C19th layout of the gardens included paths, grass, trees and shrubs, with flowerbeds probably containing roses, but little is known of detailed planting schemes. Iron railings were erected on the street side in 1831 when keys to the gates were issued. A number of commemorative statues have been erected on the gardens' periphery but facing outwards and not intended as part of the garden design. At some stage Victorian or Edwardian rope tiles were used to edge the paths. In 1920 A D Webster described Carlton House Terrace having 'A well furnished garden where Thorn, Holly, Acacia, Poplar and Cherry alternate with Plane trees. The most remarkable tree is a large laburnum the stem of which girths 3 feet 9 inches.' Of Carlton Gardens, probably including the turning circle, he wrote that there were :'2 fair sized Catalpa trees, a Holly 20 feet high as well as Acacia and five gigantic Poplar trees'. By the early C20th the houses of Carlton House Terrace were becoming too big for single occupiers and other uses were canvassed. When No. 4 Carlton Gardens was demolished and replaced by an office building higher than its neighbours and stone faced rather than stucco, this led to the formation of the Carlton House Terrace Defence Committee. Part of the terrace was damaged in WWII and leases surrendered; properties were taken over by the Ministry of Works and used as Government offices until the 1960s.
The post-war period saw major disruptions to Garden No. 3, now known as the Wool House Garden (q.v.), which was separated from the western garden of Carlton House Terrace Gardens by a 1960s office building, the Wool House, described as 'brutal but good quality'. This was redeveloped to a 1989 post-modern design by James Stirling, executed with revisions in 1998/9 after Stirling's death by Michael Wilforde & Partners, at which time the garden was redesigned. The Carlton House Terrace Gardens generally retain their C19th character and are planted with trees, shrubs and serpentine paths, and the area around them has early C19th cast iron bollards and lamp standards. The perimeters of the gardens are defined by handsome railings and a number of good statues including General Burgoyne by J E Boehm (1877), Lord Lawrence by J E Boehm (1882), Sir John Franklin by M Noble (1866) and a monument to Lord Clyde by Marochetti, shown on a pedestal above Britannia seated on a lion (1867). More recent statues include that of Scott of the Antarctic by his widow Kathleen Scott (1915), Lord Curzon by Bertram MacKennal (1931), and, in the garden of No. 9 Carlton House Terrace, is a tombstone erected by German Ambassador Leopold von Hoesch in memory of his dog.
To the north are the enclosed gardens of the Royal Automobile Club containing mature trees and shrubs, and nearby are the private gardens of the United (now the Institute of Directors), Athenaeum by Decimus Burton (1826-30), and the Reform and Traveller's club houses (Sir Charles Barry, 1827-41 and 1828-37 respectively). Note: Significant research on ‘The Gardens on the Site of Carlton House and its Grounds’ was undertaken by Jenny Turner and Patricia Birch on behalf of London Parks and Gardens Trust, completed February 2006.
OS Map (1869), sheet no.75; Harold Clunn, the Face of London (c1950), pp.170-71; Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 6: Westminster', (Yale University Press, 2003); Survey of London, XX, III, pp.77-87; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), pp. 123-24.
See 'The Gardens on the Site of Carlton House and its Grounds' (unpublished research by Jenny Turner and Patricia Birch for LPGT Volunteer Research Project, February 2006 for extensive bibliography