|Manchester Square Gardens *||Westminster|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Manchester Square was built in the late C18th on what was then the outskirts of the City. The land had been owned by the Portman family since the C16th. Almost circular in plan, the garden is overlooked by Hertford House to the north, which was built as Manchester House in 1777 by the 4th Duke of Manchester from whom the square gets its name. The garden layout today is little changed from its late C18th layout. Railings surround mixed shrubbery with a circular path enclosing the central lawn, and there are a number of notable mature plane and lime trees. Major replanting of the garden took place in 2006-08.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2012
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Photo: Sarah Jackson
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The Portman Estate (Portman Square and Manchester Square): Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Plans to build a square on this part of the c.102-hectare Portman Estate were first mooted in the latter part of Queen Anne's reign, but were abandoned when she died in 1714. They were not revived until c.1770, when the building of a church was proposed here but this was not realised. The building of what became Manchester Square commenced in 1776 and according to the estate plan of 1777 it was initially known as Bentink Square but had taken its present name by 1780. It is named after the 4th Duke of Manchester, who leased land on the north side where he built Manchester House in 1777, the site chosen because of the good duck shooting nearby. In 1797 the lease of Manchester House was acquired by the 2nd Marquess of Hertford and it became known as Hertford House. The illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess of Hertford, Sir Richard Wallace, lived here in the C19th and displayed the family's fine collection of fine and decorative arts. In 1897 Lady Wallace left the house and its contents to the nation, and it is now known as the Wallace Collection.
Manchester Square was largely built by 1784, but possibly not completed until 1788, and the layout of the garden was probably settled by 1784. The garden was provided for the private use of inhabitants of the surrounding houses; in 1789 an Act of Parliament (29. Georgii III Regis. cap. 5) was passed that established a Trust to manage and maintain the garden for the benefit and convenience of the residents, upon whom a rate was levied for the purpose. Horwood's Map of the 1790s show a simple layout with a circular lawn surrounded by a circular path and perimeter shrubbery. Although an early plan of c.1820 in the Portman archives shows the centre of the garden with shrub-planted beds in a strong symmetrical layout consisting of a circular garden with a perimeter path, and a central bisecting path encircling a small, central circular bed, there is no evidence that this plan was implemented. Potter's plan of 1832 shows today's simple layout. The OS Map first edition of 1867 indicate railings, perimeter shrubbery and path and serpentine paths across the centre, but by 1894 these had disappeared. Minute books from the end of the C19th in the Portman archives record details about plant introductions to the garden. In 1928 it was described as an 'almost circular area surrounded by a low privet hedge and a shrubbery. Maintained as a lawn and contains some fine trees. An attractive open space overlooked by large dwelling-houses'.
During WWII trenches were dug in the garden, tanks for emergency water were erected, and the railings were removed. A small bomb and incendiary devices fell in the garden. After the war, new railings were eventually erected in 1966 and surround mixed shrubbery that includes privet, with almond, flowering cherry, fatsia, forsythia, laburnum, thorn around a circular path enclosing the central lawn with a small area of rose bedding in the south centre. The garden has notable mature plane and lime trees, and was extensively replanted in 2006-08.
In the forecourt of Hertford House is a cast iron drinking fountain designed by Charles Lebourg in 1878. It takes the form of an octagonal plinth with enriched scrolled consoles alternating with moulded dolphins on facets surmounted by 4 caryatids carrying an octagonal entablature with a canopy having simulated fish-scale details and other enrichment.
E Cecil, London Parks and Gardens, 1907, pp.221-222; E Beresford Chancellor, The History of the Squares of London, 1907 pp.280-284; D V H Eyre, 'The Garden Enclosures of Squares in the City of Westminster: Past, Present & Future', (1995, unpublished); Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England London 3: North West, (Penguin, 1999 ed); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928