Brunswick Square Gardens * (Camden)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Brunswick Square was developed as part of the Foundling Estate. The Foundling Hospital was established in 1739 by Captain Thomas Coram, whose statue is just outside Brunswick Square Gardens. The Trustees of the Hospital purchased 56 acres in Lamb's Conduit Fields from Lord Salisbury and the Hospital, now Coram's Fields, was built by 1753. The plan was to develop the surrounding estate in order to provide ground rents to support the hospital but also to retain an open situation. Brunswick Square, one of two squares either side of the Hospital, was built between 1795-1804 and was named after Caroline of Brunswick, the Prince Regent's wife. The central railed gardens were laid out between 1796-99. Initially for the private use of residents of the square, the gardens are now public. Re-landscaping in 2002/3 included new railings, paths and seating.
- Site location:
- Brunswick Square
- WC1N 1AZ
- Type of site:
- Garden Square, Public Gardens
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- daylight hours
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 11 times, most recently in 2018.
- Special conditions:
- Has participated in OGSW. For news and events see Association of Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens website: www.bloomsburysquares.org.uk
- Public transport:
- Tube: Russell Square (Piccadilly). Bus: 7, 59, 68, 91, 168, 188
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.camden.gov.uk
Full Site Description
Coram's Fields including Mecklenburgh Square and Brunswick Square: Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Part of the Foundling Estate and now owned by the London Goodenough Trust and leased to LB Camden. The Foundling Hospital was established in 1742 by Captain Thomas Coram, whose statue by William Macmillan of 1963 is just outside Brunswick Square Gardens. The Trustees of the Foundling Hospital purchased 56 acres in Lamb's Conduit Fields from owner Lord Salisbury for £6,500 and the Hospital, now Coram's Fields (q.v.) was built by 1753. The plan was to develop the surrounding estate in order to provide ground rents to support the hospital but also to retain an open situation. The Building Committee appointed Samuel Pepys Cockerell to develop the estate surrounding the hospital, whose plan of 1790 had two squares on either side of the Hospital. Although his general principles were accepted, details of the west Brunswick Square was by Thomas Merryweather, the Hospital's Secretary. Brunswick Square was built between 1795 and 1804, when the north terrace was completed, and was named after Caroline of Brunswick, wife of the Prince Regent.
The central gardens were laid out and railed in 1796-99 and an early plan shows a complicated path layout, although it is not known whether this scheme was actually implemented. A plan dated 1813 shows what might be three flowerbeds on the perimeter walk with what might be a small tree in each, and a central circular bed with perhaps three trees, but with no central path at this early stage. In Jane Austen's novel 'Emma', published in 1815, Brunswick Square was the fictional home of Mr and Mrs Knightley, and the area was described as 'most favourable as to air'. However, in the 1920s, there was a threat to the survival of the gardens when the Foundling Hospital planned to move out of London and there were proposals to build a new Covent Garden over the site including its two garden squares. Saved from this fate, in 1928 it was described as 'a very attractive garden with well-kept lawns and flower beds and some fine trees . . Surrounded by a thick shrubbery'. Initially the gardens were maintained for the private use of the inhabitants of the surrounding houses by a Committee, who managed it out of rates levied on the occupiers by St Pancras Borough Council. The gardens are now open to the public and maintained by LB Camden, who lease the site from the London Goodenough Trust.
Brunswick Square Gardens today have numerous mature trees including an impressive London plane tree in the centre, described as the finest in the borough and 2nd oldest in London, which was designated as a Great Tree of London in 2009. There are flower and shrub beds and shrubbery around the perimeter; in the late C20th there was a tennis court provided, but this is no longer in existence. Substantial re-landscaping of the gardens was completed in 2002/2003, which included restoration of perimeter railings, the original railings having been largely replaced by chain-link fencing in the C20th.
Opposite Brunswick Square Gardens is the now-listed Brunswick Centre, which was built in 1967-72 and described as 'the pioneering example of low-rise, high density housing a field in which Britain was extremely influential on this scale'. Also nearby is the School of Pharmacy, which famously took 22 years to build (from 1938 to 1960) and was described at the opening ceremony in 1960 by the Queen Mother as 'the oldest new building in London'.
New information, due to be published in 2013 in an essay entitled 'Barrie and Bloomsbury' by Professor Rosemary Ashton, suggests that the window of the Darlings’ house into which Peter Pan flew is on the south-west corner of Brunswick Square in Grenville Street, and not Hereford Square (q.v.) as previously thought.
The Friends of Brunswick Square was formed in 2008. 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.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); E Beresford Chancellor 'The History of the Squares of London: Topographical and Historical', London 1907; Survey of London; John Summerson, 'Georgian London' 1978; D J Olsen, 'Town Planning in London' (1984 ed.); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; Susan Jellis 'So remarkably airy' - Brunswick Square WC1' in The London Gardener, vol.17, 2012/13 pp32-38; Todd Longstaffe-Gowan 'Farewell Brunswick Square', in The London Gardener, vol.17, 2012/13 pp67-73; Professor Rosemary Ashton, ‘Barrie and Bloomsbury’ in ‘Gateway to the Modern: Resituating J.M. Barrie’, ed. Andrew Nash and Valentina Bold, to be published in 2013 by the Association of Scottish Literary Societies in Glasgow.
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ304823 (530387,182280)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- London Goodenough Trust, leased to LB Camden
- Site management:
- LB Camden, Parks & Open Spaces; Friends of Brunswick Square
- Listed structures:
- LBII: No. 40 (Thomas Coram Foundation) and statue of Thomas Coram; K2 telephone kiosk; O'Donnell Court/Foundling Court (Brunswick Centre)
- 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:
- Public Open Space (Small Local). London Squares Act 1931. Strategic View Corridor (part), Metropolitan Walk
Brunswick Square Gardens, June 2008. Photo: S Williams
Click photo to enlarge.