Leinster Square, begun in the 1850s, was largely the work of builder and speculator George Wyatt although it is not known who designed the central garden. By the 1890s it was managed by a Residents' Garden Committee whose records indicate the emphasis placed on good behaviour and maintenance of the ornamental plantings. The original layout was probably that shown on the 1869 OS map, a rectangular garden with perimeter hedge of trees and shrubs, perimeter path and, on its east-west alignment, 3 trees and a central oval bed flanked by two circular beds containing shrubs and/or trees. A number of the mature London plane trees probably date from the original layout, now augmented by additional mature trees. The garden was refurbished in 1977 with extensive planting that largely survives today and the restoration of its iron railings, the originals probably removed in WWII.
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Photo: Colin Wing
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In the early C19th Bayswater covered an area roughly bounded by Paddington, Lancaster Gate and Kensington. Greenwood’s Map of 1830 shows the extent of the built-up area at that time, and the site of Leinster Square was still open fields. Building activity, while increasing from the late 1820s, remained fragmented. In Bayswater, leases were made to speculators, many of them builders, who acquired several plots in different streets. Among the speculators were Matthew Cotes Wyatt who put up some of the capital, whilst his sons Matthew, George and Henry did the designing and building. The Wyatt family included several of the important English architects across the C18th and C19th, although George Wyatt, who was responsible for Leinster Square, was not a major member of the dynasty. He over-speculated and went bankrupt in 1846. In 1859, during the course of building, Leinster Square had 25 houses in occupation and by 1861 most of the terraces were occupied. It was finally finished in 1864. Leinster is a pair with Prince's Square (q.v.).
It is not known who designed the garden at Leinster Square. The gardens of the small and medium-sized C19th squares usually followed a familiar pattern with a symmetrical design, an outer belt of trees and shrubs around the perimeter to provide shelter and some privacy, a walk around the inside of this and the centre laid out as grass. There was usually a central feature, a statue, fountain or, more often, a flower bed or group of ornamental trees and shrubs. The garden was often crossed by further footpaths linking the centre of the gardens to the entrances. The pattern was simple enough to be designed and planted by a local nurseryman, the building speculator or a gifted amateur. The garden would be secured with railings and gates were kept locked. It was not open to the public.
Although there is no data concerning the design or initial construction of the Leinster Square garden it was in place by 1862 as it was depicted on Stanford’s Map of that year, but with little detail other than an east-west alignment of mature trees across the centre of the garden. The first map to show the garden layout in any detail is the 1869 Ordnance Survey Map First Edition, which probably represents something close to the original layout. This map shows a perimeter hedge of closely spaced trees and shrubs and a perimeter path within a rectangular garden that measured c.125m by 28m. It is bounded by a row of 20 terraced houses on the south side and by the street layout on the other three sides. Paths from the back gardens of the terraces are shown leading into the garden. One central oval bed, which appears to contain shrubs and/or trees, is on the garden's east-west alignment with two circular beds flanking it, also containing shrubs and/or trees and surrounded by paths that link to the perimeter path. Also on the same alignment three mature trees are shown.
The election of a committee of residents of the square to run the garden may have begun in the 1860s but it is not until 1890 that there are records of the Leinster Square Garden Committee, now in Westminster Archives Centre. One of the first records is of a London plane tree being planted in the middle of the garden on 26 February 1887 in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year. The committee met annually (in May in the 1890s) and there were about seven members attending. The Treasurer presented the accounts and these were confirmed and matters concerning the garden discussed. The committee members were all male. A female committee member is not recorded until as late as 1920 when the committee had been reduced to three members (perhaps by WWI) and so Miss Mead at No. 51, Miss Gilberston at No. 63, Mrs Crow at No. 45 and Miss Mushett at No. 29 were to be asked to join. Everyone who lived around the square had to pay towards its upkeep. The garden rates were recorded in the account books, which show that the charge was £1 10s 0d per annum per house, recorded every year from 1891-1915. To give an idea of how much was collected in a given year: in 1893 £93 5s 0d was collected from Nos. 1-64 and in 1915 the sum collected was £93 7s 6d. The committee employed a full time gardener from (at least) 1891 to 1908, W Garrard and Sons. The gardener was paid £4 11s 8d per month (as recorded in 1891 and 1903) but by 1910 the gardener was paid £70 per annum. The 1896 map shows little change to the layout shown on the 1869 map, although Leinster’s central oval bed is now missing and trees are only depicted around the perimeter.
The committee spent much of their time policing the square. In 1904 six printed rules included such items as no servants to be admitted except in charge of invalids and children, no lodgers or boarders and no rough noisy games. One rule stated that ‘No dogs are to be suffered to enter the Garden, except lead by a string’. At the end of the rules it stated that the gardener had strict orders to see the rules observed. The preoccupation with policing the square continued, as in 1906 a social club was established at No. 24 Leinster Square and it was intimated to the proprietor that the members could not have access to the garden. The committee were concerned with maintenance of the gardens and items of yearly expenditure included carting rubbish, cutting trees, cleaning and repairing railings, buying soda for cleaning the garden fence, buying battens, oil and tar for paths, buying a lawn mower and gardening utensils, paying the water rate, buying bolts and padlocks, manure, mould and grass seed, bedding plants and bulbs. Other items of expenditure for the garden upkeep included law charges, insurance, stationery, printing, postage and cheque book.
The plants listed in the accounts and also some mentioned in the minutes, begin to give an idea of what the gardens may have looked like. There do not appear to have been any major ‘makeovers’ or large scale replacements. Seasonal displays were recorded in the archives with bedding plants being bought for summer and bulbs for spring bulb displays. Some prices that are recorded include ' Bedding plants and ivy (1900) £13 6s'; 'Bedding plants (1909) £10; Bulbs (1909) £1 18s. In addition, other plants included 'Elders 5s 10d and carriage of elders 1s 7d'. Apart from plants, other costs such as the garden rate, wages and maintenance costs are rarely recorded well enough to show any rising costs. Accounts show that some plants were bought from J Veitch and Sons nursery and bulbs from W Fromow (florists) in 1912.
There appears to be little evidence for cutbacks during WWI or WWII in the garden committee archives. In the year 1915 64 people paid £1 10s and £93 7s 6d was collected and the year's expenditure was £81 6s 7d. The committee were concerned with keeping the lawns looking good to set off the bedding displays. For ‘putting over lawns’ manure, mould (sic) and grass seed was recorded in 1909. Suttons were recorded as the supplier for grass seed in 1914 and repairs to the lawn mower are mentioned in 1916 costing £1 14s 10d. A postcard of 1910 shows the perimeter trees but not the garden and the 1916 OS map has little detail although central trees are shown. A few more items and plants are recorded in the 1920s, including '12 Brooms (1920) £0 12s 0d'; '10 doz geraniums (1921) £3 10s 0d'; 'Two garden seats (1921) £3'. There were complaints to the committee in 1920 of children running over the flower beds and newly sown grass and playing with bats and balls. The garden committee archive ceases in 1952.
Two photographs dated to the 1960s show the layout of the garden as it was then. A bed, probably raised, and central mature trees are shown in an east-west alignment and there is much less planting in the garden, which is mainly laid to lawn, with only one small perimeter bed running along close to where the back of terrace exits are.
In 1977 the garden underwent refurbishment at which time the iron railings were replaced and there was extensive planting. A sign in the garden lists the plants to be found as 'Bay trees, Deutzias, Viburnum by the end gates, and planted in the northern borders, Eucryphias, Amelanchiers, Hibiscus and Cotinus'. In 2008 the garden remains enclosed with iron railings with two side pedestrian access gates and one double gate for vehicular access. A perimeter bed of mixed planting with a perimeter tarmac path within this surrounds the garden. The central area is laid to lawn, within which is a central east-west alignment of three star-shaped raised beds surrounded by circular paths. Formed of stone slabs, these beds have four integral benches that look out from the centre of the star, and each bed contains a mature London plane tree surrounded by herbaceous plants. At the west and east ends a tree (possibly weeping ash) is set within a circle of crazy paving. Tarmac paths lead out from the back of each house, via an iron access gate into the communal garden.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (1991, reprinted 1999).
LPGT Volunteer Research by Carrie Cowan, 2010: Beresford, C. 'Garden Squares Report for English Heritage', 2002; Elrington, C R (ed), 'Paddington: Bayswater', A History of the County of Middlesex Vol 9: Hampstead, Paddington (1989)m pp.204-12; Elrington, C R (ed) 'Paddington: Tyburnia', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9: Hampstead, Paddington (1989), pp.190-198; Hitchcock, H, R, Early Victorian architecture in Britain, Yale University Press, 1954; Robinson, J, M, The Wyatts An Architectural Dynasty, Oxford University Press, 1979; ‘Wyatt family’ from ‘Wikipedia: the free encyclopaedia’. Carrie Cowan, 'The Early Garden Committees of some Westminster Squares', The London Gardener, vol 15, 2009-10, pp 89-100.