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Park Crescent * Westminster
   

Park Crescent *

Photo: Drew Bennellick

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

Park Square and Park Crescent were built on land that belonged to the Crown and were designed as part of John Nash's original conception for The Regent's Park of 1811. His plan for developing the former royal hunting chase included the 400-acre park, to be surrounded by villas and terraces. There were to be two circuses, one in the park and a south circus with the parish church in the centre where the Crescent is now. Only the southern semi-circle was realised due to financial problems. By 1823 the north half of the circus had been cancelled and replaced by a square, with its north side open to the park. Park Square was built in 1823-25 comprising two parallel terraces facing east and west across the private garden for the use of residents, which was connected to the Park Crescent garden by The Nursemaids' Tunnel under Marylebone Road. Both gardens are well laid out with lawns, numerous fine trees, flower and shrub beds.
Design for Planting the area of the two Cresents [sic] at the end of Portland Place. Courtesy Westminster City Archives.
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Park Crescent, showing lodge, postcard 1910. Courtesy Westminster City Archives
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Previous / Other name:
Site location: Park Square West/Marylebone Road
Postcode: NW1 4LJ > Google Map
Type of site: Garden Square
Date(s): 1812-22
Designer(s): John Nash
Listed structures: LBI: Nos 1-6, 8, 10, 12, 14 Park Crescent; Nos 16 and 18-26 Park Crescent. LBII: Statue of Duke of Kent, East and West Lodges of Park Crescent Garden, cast iron railings to Park Crescent Garden, cattle trough opposite 14 Park Crescent.
Borough: Westminster
Site ownership: The Crown Estate
Site management: Crown Estate Paving Commission
Open to public? Occasionally
Opening times: Has opened for OGSW. Otherwise private, for keyholders only
Special conditions:
Facilities: Toilet (closed 2009)
Events:
Public transport: Tube: Regent's Park (Bakerloo); Great Portland Street (Metropolitan & City, Circle). Bus: 18, 27, 30, C2, 88
Design for Planting the area of the two Cresents [sic] at the end of Portland Place. Courtesy Westminster City Archives.
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Park Crescent, showing lodge, postcard 1910. Courtesy Westminster City Archives
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The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/02/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cepc.org.uk

Fuller information:

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

Park Crescent and Park Square (q.v.) like Regent’s Park, were built on land that belonged to the Crown. Originally part of the vast forest of Middlesex, by the C16th the area was owned by the Abbess of Barking and called Marylebone Park after a village and manor nearby. In 1538 the land was appropriated by Henry VIII and enclosed as a deer park. During the Civil War (1649-60) it was taken by Cromwell and many of its trees were cut down during the Commonwealth to pay war debts. After the Restoration it was returned to Crown. By the early C18th the land was leased to the Duke of Portland and farmed by tenant farmers but reverted to the Crown in 1811. The Prince Regent proposed building a summer palace here and developing the area around it into a park with upmarket housing that would help pay for the development. The palace was one of several suggestions for the development of the area that was abandoned. John Fordyce, Surveyor General of H M Land Revenue from 1793 until his death in 1809 commissioned both John White and John Nash to submit plans for the Crown estate land.

Nash’s plan, which included the area now occupied by Park Square and Park Crescent, was accepted by the Crown in 1812 although it was subsequently substantially altered. There were to be two circuses, a large circus in the park and a south circus with the parish church in the centre where Park Crescent is now. This was originally planned by Nash as a full circus to provide a grand entrance to the Crown Estate, but only the graceful and elegant southern semi-circle was realised. If Park Crescent had been completed, it would have been the largest circle of buildings in Europe. The New Road was to be realigned to accommodate the plan, since renamed Marylebone Road and which separates Park Crescent from Park Square and the rest of the park. Nash’s design for Regent's Park may have been influenced by plans published by Humphry Repton in 1794 for the development of the Eyre Estate in St John’s Wood, which also included a double circus. Park Crescent was built in 1812-22 but the project hit financial problems and Charles Mayor, builder of the south circus went bankrupt with only 6 houses built in the south-east quadrant. Although building recommenced in 1818, by 1823 the north half of the circus had been cancelled. When Park Crescent was restored in 1960-3 the original elevations were reconstructed with new interiors behind.

What would have been the northern half of Nash’s intended circus was replaced by a square built in 1823-5 to the north of New (Marylebone) Road. With its north side open to the park, the houses consisted of two parallel terraces east and west of a central private garden for the use of residents. The Park Square garden was connected to that of Park Crescent by a pedestrian tunnel under Marylebone Road, known as The Nursemaids' Tunnel. During the 1920s the original 99 year leases on the houses began to fall in and Crown policy was to renew them for a further 21 years but at a higher rental. However, in the late 1920s and 1930s economic conditions were difficult and many properties were left vacant. During WWII, the western sector of Park Crescent was destroyed by bombs and many of the terraces around Regent's Park, including some around Park Square, were damaged and then allowed to deteriorate.

After the war extensive demolition was seriously contemplated and a Commission chaired by Lord Gorrell was set up by the Labour Government in 1945 to consider what should be done about the decaying terraces. The 1947 Gorrell Report recommended the terraces be reconditioned or converted behind the original façades. As a result, the newly organised Crown Estate Commission undertook to preserve, and where necessary rebuild Park Crescent, Park Square and York Gate, despite the cost. The restoration began in the 1960s and between 1960-63, the terraces of Park Crescent were demolished section by section and rebuilt behind a façade identical to that designed by Nash. Rebuilding the terraces of Regent's Park took longer. Much of the rubble from the demolished terraces was dumped into the gardens of Park Square and Park Crescent.

Park Crescent has several beech trees and a catalpa and other trees of note include a maidenhair tree and a tulip tree. Both gardens have pendulous limes. In 1987, the Queen Mother planted a plane tree in Park Crescent as part of her visit, as patron, to the International Students' Association, based in a building on Park Crescent; the rose bed between the two ventilation shafts near the northern boundary was also planted with ‘Elizabeth of Glamis’ in her honour. The surgeon, Lord Lister, lived at No 12 from 1877-1912 and Joseph Bonaparte stayed briefly at No 23.

In recent years new railings and gates have been installed to the original designs. Park Square and Park Crescent lost land when Marylebone Road was widened in 1968 when two of Park Square's four lodges, those on the south corners, were demolished. In Park Crescent the single room lodges on the two north corners were replaced as part of the 1968 road widening scheme. That on north-east corner is a toilet for garden users closed at present (2/2009) due to a collapsed drain under Marylebone Road. The lodge on the north-west corner is used for archive storage, but the earlier lodge on this corner was once the residence of the Head Gardener. Park Crescent has its original railings designed and cast by the ironsmith John Peachey who was responsible for almost all the iron work in the Park. Peachey was also an investor in the park and owned the lease to one property in York Terrace and two in Cumberland Terrace. Two ornamental ventilation shafts for the Bakerloo line are found in Park Crescent, that towards the north-west side was moved from the middle of Marylebone Road and situated here when the road was widened in 1968. Near the south-west of Park Square is an octagonal building built in 1972, which houses a ventilation shaft for the Jubilee Line; it has a circular roof with metallic trellising and decorative alcoves with benches in them. The new line was at first called the Fleet after the River Fleet, although it would have only crossed this at Ludgate Circus, but was renamed the Jubilee Line for Queen Elizabeth II's 1977 Silver Jubilee. The original choice of battleship grey for the line's colour was based on the naval meaning of the word fleet; this was replaced by a lighter grey, representing the silver colour of the Jubilee. Just inside the main entrance of Park Crescent, facing the top of Portland Place, is a statue of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (d.1829, fourth son on George III) by Gahagan on a granite pedestal. He is dressed in a Field Marshal’s uniform over which are the robes and collar of the Order of the Garter.

A Garden Committee was formed at the suggestion of the Superintendent Gardener to discuss issues relating to the running and maintenance of the gardens, and makes recommendations to the Crown Estate Paving Commission. The EH Register of Parks and Gardens entry for Regent's Park was amended in November 2008 to include Park Crescent and Park Square.

Sources consulted:

OGSW leaflet; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 3: North West (Penguin, 1999 ed); J Mordaunt Crook, ' London’s Arcadia: John Nash and the Planning of Regent’s Park', Annual Soane Lecture, 2000; Peter Cunningham, ' Handbook of London' (1850); Terence Davis, 'John Nash: The Prince Regent’s Architect' (Country Life, London, 1966); James Elmes, ' Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the Nineteenth Century: being a series of views of the New and Most interesting objects in the British Metropolis and its vicinity, from original drawings by Thos H Shepherd' (Jones & Co., London, 1829); George Gater and Walter H Godfrey (eds), 'Survey of London, part 19', (LCC, 1938); Ann Saunders, 'Regent’s Park: From 1066 to the Present' (Bedford College, London, 1981); John Summerson, 'John Nash: Architect to King George IV', (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1935) and 'The Life and Work of John Nash: Architect' (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1980); Christian Wolmar, ' The Subterranean Railway '(Atlantic Books, 2004.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Sheena Ginnings and Michael Ann Mullen, 2009
Grid ref: TQ287822
Size in hectares: 0.99
   
On EH National Register : Yes
EH grade: Grade I
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: Regent's Park
Tree Preservation Order: Yes
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation: [Park Crescent is a designated helicopter landing site for official use]
   

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