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Eaton Square Gardens * Westminster
   

Eaton Square Gardens *

Photo: Gavin Gardiner

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* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Eaton Square was laid out as part of a largely intact planned development of houses and gardens on the Grosvenor Estate. The private gardens of Eaton Square consist of six enclosures of comparable character. All railed, they have shrubbery around peripheral paths and lawns containing beds. The square has numerous major trees, dominated by London planes many dating from the original planting, together with smaller, ornamental varieties. Former residents of Eaton Square include Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at No.37 and actress Vivien Leigh at No.54.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Eaton Square, Belgravia
Postcode: SW1W 9BD > Google Map
Type of site: Garden Square
Date(s): 1827-1855
Designer(s): Thomas Cubitt, W H Seth-Smith and Charles James Freake
Listed structures: LBII*: Church of St Peter, Nos. 73 - 82, 83 - 102, 103 - 118, 8 - 23, 24 - 48, 51 - 62, 67 - 71. LB II: Nos. 1 to 7, 66a, 'Eaton House', 63 - 66 - 72. On the east side: Nos. 1 - 15, 25 - 61, 63, 67 - 83 & 87 - 101.
Borough: Westminster
Site ownership: Grosvenor Estate
Site management: Grosvenor Estate Gardens Department/ Garden Committee
Open to public? Occasionally
Opening times: Private for residents/occupiers of Eaton Square. Central and south enclosure have opened for OGSW. Otherwise private, for keyholders only
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 19 times, most recently in 2017.
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Events: Tennis court
Public transport: Rail/Tube (District/Circle/Victoria): Victoria. Tube: Sloane Square (District/Circle). Bus: C1, C2, C10, 2, 11, 16, 19, 22, 24, 36, 38, 44, 52, 73, 82, 148, 170, 185, 211, 436, 507
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.grosvenor-gardens.co.uk/EatonSquareGarden

Fuller information:

The Grosvenor Estate (Belgrave Square, Chester Square, Eaton Square and Wilton Crescent): Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

Eaton Square, Belgrave Square, Chester Square and Wilton Crescent (q.q.v.) were on land formerly known as Five Fields on the Grosvenor Estate's holdings in Belgravia. In 1677 the family had acquired c.121 hectares of land of the Manor of Ebury, but this area remained undeveloped and largely used for market gardening until the early C19th, due to its predominantly marshy nature. In 1821 Lord Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster, commissioned his estate surveyor, Thomas Cundy, to revise an earlier unexecuted scheme produced by Thomas or James Wyatt in c.1812, for draining and developing the site immediately to the north of John Nash's remodelled Buckingham Palace (q.v.). In 1813 an elaborate and extensive scheme had been put forward for the Belgrave estate by Alexander and Daniel Robertson and Eaton Square made its appearance for the first time. They proposed a crescent along the boundary with the Lowndes Estate to accommodate the inconvenient line of the Ranelagh sewer. The buildings were to be denser, and the open spaces and gardens smaller. The Robertsons abandoned this project, but the scheme remained on the books until 1821 (see 1819 edition of Horwood's map). The street layout and certain elements were altered when Thomas Cundy's detailed survey was drawn up in 1821. His plan, which added Wilton Crescent to the planned Belgrave and Eaton Squares, was completed in 1825 and building leases were then sold, with the main developer being Thomas Cubitt (1788-1855). The overall plan comprised a series of squares and crescents connected by a spine road on the main axis and a subsidiary axis.

Under the original agreement, Lord Grosvenor was responsible for the enclosing and planting of the gardens but not for the considerable site works necessary before any planting could begin. Cubitt solved the problem of the marshy ground by bringing earth excavated from St Katharine's Dock near the Tower of London in order to raise the height of the ground. Belgrave Square was the first square to be laid out from early in 1826, followed by Wilton Crescent in 1827. Eaton Square, also begun in 1827 was not completed until 1853. Chester Square was the fourth square to be laid out but although it was planned in 1828 building did not begin until 1835.

Eaton Square is named after Eaton Hall, the home of the Dukes of Westminster in Cheshire. Development of the square was begun by Thomas Cubitt in 1827 with another builder W H Seth-Smith, from 1840 in collaboration with Charles James Freake and members of the Cundy family. The various terraces had all been completed by 1853. Cundy's plan for Eaton Square was more economical in its layout than the earlier plan, some more houses were fitted in, and the greenery less extensive, although to the single original square was added the driveway of Eaton Square. The terraces overlook the private gardens, which lie on level ground filling the rectangular site that runs north-east/south-west for ½km, enclosed by the roads of Eaton Square and crossed by Eccleston Street and Lyall Street, effectively dividing the area into six related rectangles. Cubitt's map of the square of 1843 shows the layout of the six gardens to individual designs and Greenwood's Map of c.1830 also shows the gardens with trees, lawns, perimeter paths, shrubberies and various entrances. It is possible that the arrangement of the gardens into two divisions each of three enclosures owed their creation to economic necessity: when Cubitt took his land on the north side, the Grosvenor Estate may have had to compensate the existing leaseholders who were market gardeners by giving them the gardens for the remainder of their term. The site of the north-east garden on the north-west side was in use as McKenzie's Nursery by 1822, and continued in such use until 1842. John Allen, whose Union Nursery was nearby, planted the southern garden enclosures at a cost of £147 per acre. Acts of Parliament of 1826 and 1834 provide a constitution common to all on the squares on the Belgravia estate.

The OS Map of 1864 shows the layout of some of the gardens much like that shown on Cubitt's 1843 plan, particularly of the north-east and south-west gardens. The south-west garden on the southern side was later raised by c.1.2m in c.1867 and replanted by nurseryman James Veitch. The layout of the gardens has changed little since 1869, although the four smaller enclosures were subdivided by paths linked to the perimeter path. In WWII the gardens were ploughed up, but later re-instated, and the railings were removed for the war effort, restored in the 1970s with those of a modern design. An air-raid shelter was constructed opposite the gates in the central southern enclosure, and this suffered a direct hit that killed 6 people including the Lord Mayor of Westminster then visiting; cannon shell from German aircraft was found in the limbs of a plane tree during pruning in the 1970s. The garden was completely replanted in the 1950s and a formal area was planted over the site of the air raid shelter, to the south-west of which is an early C20th tennis court. Tree planting in the 1980s and '90s included a katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), Acer platanoides 'Crimson King', snowbell tree (Styrax japonica), dogwood (Cornus contraversa), a collection of different magnolia species including Magnolia grandiflora. In 2011 the gardens were awarded a Bronze medal in the London Garden Society's competition for large private squares.

Sources consulted:

E B Chancellor, 'The History of the Squares of London', 1907 p. 338-339; Country Life 22 May 1969, pp. 1312-1314; D V H Eyre, 'The Garden Enclosures of Squares in the City of Westminster: Past, Present & Future', (1995, unpublished); Hermione Hobhouse, 'Thomas Cubitt, Masterbuilder', 1971, p.89 -100, 132, 144; Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 6: Westminster', (Yale University Press, 2003); Tree Walk (Fountain Garden) leaflet produced by Stephen Smith Landscape Manager, Grosvenor Estate (?2005)
Grid ref: TQ284791
Size in hectares: c.6
   
On EH National Register : Yes
EH grade: Grade II
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
Yes
 
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: Belgravia
Tree Preservation Order: Yes
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation:
   

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