London Parks & Gardens Trust

Upper Chelsea and Belgravia

Chester Square

Chester Square

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Directions

On reaching Chester Square, turn left and walk to No. 2.

Retrace your steps, go back over Eccleston Street and continue walking along the north terrace of Chester Square, stopping at the gate into the square garden opposite No 19.

Continue along to No. 24.

Continue on to No. 38.

Continue out of the square via Chester Row, passing St Michael's Church on your left. Cross Elizabeth Street and continue along Chester Row, crossing South Eaton Place and Eaton Terrace. At the end of Chester Row, cross Bourne Street into Whittaker Street. Turn right at the end into Holbein Place, and follow the road round, turning right to bring you back to Sloane Street underground station, where the walk ends.

If you are visiting this garden on Open Garden Squares Weekend, be careful to check the opening times.

Description

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), poet, writer and schools inspector, lived at No. 2 from 1858 to 1868. While at this address, he wrote Culture and Anarchy, which attacked Victorian values. Three of his five children were born here, but Arnold was deeply saddened by the death of two of his sons during this time: Thomas, aged 16, and Basil, who was just two.

The houses and gardens of Chester Square were planned in 1828 as part of Cubitt's development of the Grosvenor Estate, but building did not start until 1835. The houses were designed by Cubitt and the rectangular garden laid out in 1835 in imitation of Eaton Square. Notice the wheatsheaf on the garden entrance sign. This is the insignia of the Grosvenor Estate, a reference to the family's agricultural roots.

At No. 24 we meet Mary Shelley again, who lived here from 1846 until her death in 1851. Mary had been left a widow at the age of 24 when Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in a storm off the coast of Italy. To add to the tragic circumstances of her life, she had given birth to three more children, of whom all but one had died. Mary continued to write, producing a further five novels as well as poetry, but remained alone, rejecting several proposals of marriage. She suffered intense headaches for the last few years of her life, and died, it was discovered, of a brain tumour.

The top floor flat of No. 38 was home to Guy Burgess (1911-1963), one of the ‘Cambridge spies’, from 1935 to 1940. Burgess, who defected to the USSR in 1951, concealed his communist sympathies by decorating his flat in patriotic red, white and blue.