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Dolphin Square Garden Westminster

Dolphin Square Garden

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Dolphin Square Garden is the private courtyard garden of a large luxury apartment block built in 1935-7. The courtyard, built over an underground car park, contains ornamental gardens, some of which dates from the original layout. Features include lawns, a central pool with bronze sculpture of dolphins, and an avenue of pollarded chestnut trees leading to the former entrance to Grosvenor Road (now closed). A raised Moroccan 'sun garden' was created in the 1980s over the sports club, and other features include a herb garden, Japanese-style grotto, rockeries, rose beds, raised beds faced with Cotswold stone, planted urns, seats and a pergola. The gardens are watered from their own Artesian wells.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Chichester Street, Pimlico
Postcode: SW1V 3LX > Google Map
Type of site: Housing/Estate Landscaping
Date(s): 1935-37; 1980s
Designer(s): Richard Suddell (1930s gardens)
Listed structures:
Borough: Westminster
Site ownership: Westbrook Partners
Site management: Mantilla Ltd
Open to public? Partially
Opening times: private; bars and restaurant are open to public, spa by appointment. Has opened for OGSW
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 7 times, most recently in 2017.
Special conditions: no photography, dogs, bicycles, games
Facilities: Dolphin Bar & Grill
Public transport: Tube: Pimlico (Victoria). Bus: 24, 360, C10
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Fuller information:

In the 1820s developer and builder Thomas Cubitt acquired leases for much of Pimlico from the owner, the Duke of Westminster, and established his works on what is now Dolphin Square. After Cubitt's death in 1855 the property returned to the Duke and in 1858 the Government took the lease and built the Army Clothing Factory on the site, which eventually closed in 1933. WCC had plans to construct a large residential development here, Ormonde Court, but this ran into financial difficulties. A.P. Costain took over the project, building Dolphin Square from 1935-37, with the first tenants moving in in 1936. The estate changed ownership a number of times in the 1950s, WCC eventually buying the lease in the 1960s for £4.5million and subletting it to the newly formed Dolphin Square Trust. In 2006 the estate was sold by WCC and Dolphin Square Trust to Westbrook Partners, an American private equity business who began updating the décor of the communal areas.

Dolphin Square was built to the designs of Cecil Eve and Gordon Jeeves in 1937 as a 'high class' modern residential complex with thirteen wings grouped around a large internal courtyard. The development is said to have got its name at the suggestion of A J Costain, the uncle of Sir Albert Costain, who developed the square. He was headmaster of a school in Colwyn Bay whose school magazine was called 'The Dolphin' and he suggested Dolphin Court as the name for the new development. Due to the configuration of blocks around a courtyard garden, Dolphin Square was decided upon. The 13 buildings were all named after British Admirals and other figures from maritime history, including well-known names such as Nelson, Drake and Raleigh, together with perhaps less well known people, such as Grenville, Collingwood and Frobisher. The gardens were designed by Richard Suddell, at that time President of the Institute of Landscape Architects. He also designed the roof garden for Selfridge & Co. During WWII air raid shelters were created below Frobisher House, the garage became an ambulance depot, the gymnasium was used as a hospital and Grenville House was used in 1940 as General De Gaulle's Free French Headquarters. Dolphin Square suffered bomb damage and 12 people were killed. Dolphin Square has had many famous residents including numerous politicians, figures from military intelligence and espionage, and notorious figures including Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce, and Oswald Mosley. It also attracted celebrities from the world of entertainment such as Arthur Askey, Tommy Trinder and Bud Flanagan.

The Dolphin Fountain in the centre of the garden was commissioned from sculptor James Butler RA in 1987. The Moroccan Garden was also landscaped in the 1980s following a competition, and also has a fountain, raised lavender beds, olives, cistus and other Mediterranean plants.

Sources consulted:

Harold Clunn, the Face of London (c1950) pp.252-53; Edward Jones & Christopher Woodward, 'A Guide to the Architecture of London', London 1983, p.322; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), p.233. See also K.F. Morris ‘A History of Dolphin Square’ (published by Dolphin Square Trust Limited, 1995) and history on Dolphin Square website
Grid ref: TQ294780
Size in hectares: c.2.834
On EH National Register : No
EH grade:
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
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.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: Yes
Conservation Area name: Dolphin Square
Tree Preservation Order: No
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: Yes - area along Thames
Other LA designation:

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