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Grosvenor Square Garden * Westminster
   
Summary: * on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Grosvenor Square within the extensive Grosvenor Estate of the Dukes of Westminster is the largest of the Mayfair squares. Built by Sir Richard Grosvenor, the square's garden was first laid out in the early C18th, later re-landscaped in the early C19th. It was originally provided as a private garden for residents of the surrounding houses, but opened to the public from 1948, when it was redesigned and a statue to President Roosevelt was erected within a formal garden area. On the east side is a Memorial Garden to commemorate Britons who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in 2001.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Grosvenor Square, Mayfair
Postcode: W1 > Google Map
Type of site: Garden Square; Public Gardens
Date(s): 1725-30, early C19th, 1948
Designer(s): 1725: William Kent; 1947/8: B W L Gallannaugh
Listed structures: LBII*: No.38 Grosvenor Square. LBII: American Embassy; Nos.4, 9, 22 & 23 Grosvenor Square; Statue of President Roosevelt; Police Public Callbox
Borough: Westminster
Site ownership: Grosvenor Estate
Site management: Royal Parks Agency
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: 8am - dusk
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Events:
Public transport: Tube: Bond Street (Jubilee, Central)
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.royalparks.org.uk; www.grosvenor.com

Fuller information:

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

An oval garden enclosure here was apparently first begun in 1695. Sir Richard Grosvenor was granted a licence in 1710 to develop the land, although building of the houses of Grosvenor Square did not commence until 1725 and it was not completed until 1731. The first garden layout of c.1725 is attributed to William Kent or John Alston, and as shown on a view of c.1726 had a formal layout comprising a circular enclosure with railings and four entrances surrounded by extensive pavement. The garden had a formal arrangement of shrubs around a square central grass plot, with an equestrian statue of George I, erected in 1726, surrounded by 16 plots of shrubbery and, possibly, hedges. This layout was replaced in the early C19th by a simpler scheme, with shrubbery enclosing winding paths through lawns with plane trees lining the main paths. Elm trees dating from the C18th layout were replaced by plane trees along the main paths in the mid C19th, and by the early C20th the statue of George I was replaced by an octagonal shelter. The garden, owned by the Duke of Westminster, was maintained by Trustees appointed under an Act of 1835 out of rates levied on occupiers of the surrounding houses, and was their use and others paying rates under the Act. In 1928 it was described as 'A large oval-shaped area surrounded by a thick shrubbery. Very attractively laid out with lawns, hard tennis court, flowr beds and some fine trees'.

The American Embassy was located in No.1 Grosvenor Square from 1938 and in WWII Grosvenor Square became the American centre of London, with General Eisenhower based at No.20 during the war. The square is now dominated by the new US Embassy, designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in 1958-61, an early example of a purpose-built embassy. Most of the original houses on the square have been rebuilt from the late C18th onwards, including No.26, which was rebuilt in 1773 by Robert Adam. Apart from the American Embassy the predominant style is Neo-Georgian. In 1948 the garden was first opened to the public when the layout was modified and the central garden redesigned by Mr B W L Gallannaugh, FRIBA. The trees and some of the outer paths remained in their old informality, but the dominant feature became the straight north-south axial path, laid in Portland stone paving. Originally flanked by flower beds, this path provided a formal approach to Sir William Reid Dick's statue to President Franklin D Roosevelt of 1948, who was the US President during WWII. Gallannaugh provided the immediate setting for the memorial: a square stone platform approached by steps. At the corners are stone caskets, each inscribed with a date, which symbolise the four terms of office served by Franklin Roosevelt. On either side steps lead down to a paved court in which there is a pool, with a small bronze fountain, bounded by stone seating. Flanking walls are inscribed with the `Four Freedoms', namely: FREEDOM FROM WANT- FREEDOM FROM FEAR - FREEDOM OF SPEECH - FREEDOM TO WORSHIP. Additional seating was provided in the semi-circular ends of the flanking courts. The siting of the memorial and the layout of the garden, with its open centre and inner circuit, were intended to provide "the maximum frontal and diagonal views and ... a wide area of lawns." (The Builder). The memorial statue was unveiled by Mrs Roosevelt in 1948. Also in the square is a statue of Eisenhower by Robert Lee Dean.

The earlier perimeter path seems to have been retained but the garden was bounded by a dwarf stone wall, intended to be without railings. 18 feet inside the wall a dwarf yew hedge provided a barrier. Today the garden has a peripheral path, with a clipped holly hedge, and winding paths through lawn. Lesser trees and shrubs include ailanthus, malus and thorn.

In 1985 the Eagle Squadron Memorial, with its bronze eagle sculpted by Dame Elisabeth Frink, was erected towards the south end of the main axis. The latest addition to Grosvenor Square Garden is the September 11th Memorial Garden on the east side designed by Landuse Consultants, an oval garden with planting informed by suggestions from families of Britons who had lost their lives, including lily of the valley symbolic of hope, myrtle, rosemary for remembrance, lavender for its calming properties and ivy for fidelity. Surrounded by an evergreen hedge, the memorial garden has a stone centrepiece and pavilion with pergola constructed in green oak, inscribed with the words 'Grief is the price we pay for love', taken from a message in response to the attacks from the Queen. The planting consists of North American and British species that specifically flower and are at their best in September to coincide with the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Sources consulted:

E. Cecil, London Parks and Gardens, 1907, p.221; E.Beresford Chancellor, The History of the Squares of London, 1907, pp.23-41; N. Pevsner, rev. by B. Cherry, London I, 1985, pp.583-586; R. Colby, Mayfair, A Town within London, 1966; Survey of London, vol.XXXIX, Part I; Survey of London, vol.XL, Part II; The Architect and Building News, April 9, 1948, p. 323; The Builder, May 7, 1948, pp. 538-540; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928
Grid ref: TQ283808
Size in hectares: c.2.5
   
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: Mayfair
Tree Preservation Order: No
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: Yes
Other LA designation:
   

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