Bedford Square Garden * (Camden)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Bedford Square was built between 1775-86 on the Bedford Estate to provide fashionable town houses. The estate remained sealed by gates until 1893. The square is no longer residential and the central garden, laid out between 1775-80, is now mainly surrounded by offices. Described as 'the best and most complete Georgian square left in Bloomsbury', its large oval garden remains for the private use of keyholders. It is surrounded by late C18th cast-iron railings and has shrubberies, lawn and mature plane trees, and a C19th hexagonal pavilion, which has been restored, and new benches and metal edging have been installed on the resurfaced perimeter path.
- Site location:
- Bedford Square
- WC1B 3HH
- What 3 Words:
- Type of site:
- Garden Square
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Has opened for OGSW, otherwise private, keyholders only
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 22 times, most recently in 2023.
- Special conditions:
- Dogs on leads
- Public transport:
- Tube: Tottenham Court Road (Central, Northern); Goodge Street (Northern). Bus: 10, 24, 29, 73, 134.
- Research updated:
- Last minor changes:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.bedfordestates.com
Full Site Description
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Bedford Square was built between 1776-86 on the Duke of Bedford's Estate. By the late C17th the Russell family's extensive land holdings in London included a substantial area in Bloomsbury, which was developed from the 1660s, with Bloomsbury Square and Great Russell Street laid out in the first phase of development. In 1723 the Bloomsbury Estate became part of the Bedford Estate. Bedford Square was laid out in the second phase of development when the hitherto rural Lamb's Conduit Fields were built over. Probably designed by Thomas Leverton, Bedford Square was built as the focal point of a planned estate, which comprised a grid of streets to west, north and south and took 80 years to complete. Gates and lodges were erected in the mid C19th to maintain privacy for the residents and the estate remained sealed by gates until 1891-93.
Bedford Square remains part of the Bedford Estate and only the occupiers of surrounding houses are permitted to use the garden, which was laid out between 1775-80 at the same time as the surrounding roadway. This work was carried out by builders/contractors William Scott and Robert Grews, supervised by Robert Palmer, Chief Agent of the fourth Duke of Bedford. The original layout consisted of a perimeter path and shrubbery, and four serpentine paths leading to a central feature that was initially planting and by 1870 a hexagonal pavilion, recently restored. The layout changed in the late C19th when the pavilion was moved to the west and the paths crossing the centre were removed. In 1928 it is described as being 'attractively laid out with lawns, flower beds and some fine trees' and it is also noted that 'the hedge and shrubberies around the border have been removed in parts so as to admit of a clear view across the open space from the outside.' The square is no longer residential and is now surrounded mainly by offices; the Architectural Association School is in Nos. 34-36. Described as 'the best and most complete Georgian square left in Bloomsbury', its large oval garden is surrounded by late C18th cast-iron railings with shrubberies, lawn and mature plane trees. Entrances on the north and south are through late C18th gates with wrought-iron overthrows.
In 2006 the square underwent a £0.75m restoration. Among the former residents of the square were its architect, Thomas Leverton; architect William Butterfield; Prime Minister H H Asquith and the Lord Chancellor Lord Eldon, whose daughter eloped with Humphry Repton's son G S Repton; and the 2nd Duke of Devonshire.
The Association of Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens was set up in 2012 as a forum for the local gardens, with a website www.bloomsburysquares.org.uk, which acts as a point of access for sharing activities, events and concerns. The gardens within the Association are: Argyle, Bedford, Bloomsbury, Brunswick, Fitzroy, Gordon, Mecklenburgh, Regent, Russell, Tavistock, Torrington and Woburn Squares (q.q.v.), and Marchmont Community Garden.
The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.
NHLE Register bibliography: E B Chancellor, 'The History of the Squares of London' (1907); D J Olsen, 'Town Planning in London' (1984 ed.); B Cherry & N Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England: London 4: North' (1998). See www.bedfordestate.com. Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ298816 (529857,181698)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- The Bedford Estate
- Site management:
- The Bedford Estate
- 1775-86; 1870s
- Listed structures:
- LBI: Nos. 1-54 Bedford Square. LBII: C18th railings and gates to garden
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- NHLE grade:
- Grade II*
- Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
- Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
Local Authority Data
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:
- Conservation Area name:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Not known
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Yes - Area of Special Character: Central London Area
- Other LA designation:
- Private Open Space. London Squares Preservation Act of 1931
Bedford Square Garden showing pavilion, June 2008. Photo: S Williams
Click a photo to enlarge.
Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.