Gordon Square Garden (Camden)
The area remained open land until it was developed as part of the Bedford Estate. Although the square was formed in 1800, the garden and houses were not built until the 1820s. Named after Lady Georgina Gordon, second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford, the design and supervision of the garden was by the Duke himself; an early plan of c.1830 showed a perimeter path and a circular central path around a shrubbery, linked to the perimeter by six curving paths, with shrubberies around the edge and in groups in the enclosures made by paths. By 1894 the layout had changed and it was simplified in the early C20th. In 1920 the Duke agreed to sell the site to the Government for the building of University of London. The gardens initially remained private for use of residents and keyholders but were later open to the public. In 2007 the gardens were formally re-opened by HRH the Princess Royal following a 7-year restoration project.
- Site location:
- Gordon Square/Tavistock Street
- WC1H 0PQ
- What 3 Words:
- Type of site:
- Garden Square, Public Gardens
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Daily 8am - dusk or 8pm. Closed Christmas Day
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 13 times, most recently in 2018.
- Special conditions:
- no dogs, no ball games
- Has opened for OGSW
- Public transport:
- Tube: Euston Square (Circle); Russell Square (Piccadilly). Bus: 59, 68, 91, 168, 7, 10, 18, 24, 29, 30, 73, 134, 188, 390.
- Research updated:
- Last minor changes:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.london.ac.uk
Full Site Description
Prior to the building up of Bloomsbury, the area that is now Gordon Square was part of Tottenhall Manor. In the C15th most was within 'le Otefeld' (oat field), and by the C17th it was within 'two grounds adjoining north on Long Field' and part of the manor of Bloomsbury, granted to the first Earl of Southampton in 1550. The 4th Earl began development on his estates in the 1660s, which became part of the Bedford Estates in 1723. Gordon Square area remained open land until developed as part of the Bedford Estate, the square formed in 1800 but neither the houses built (largely by Thomas Cubitt) or the garden made until the 1820s. Named after Lady Georgina Gordon, second wife of the Sixth Duke of Bedford, the design and supervision was by the Duke himself; an early plan of c.1830 showed a perimeter path and a circular central path around a shrubbery, linked to the perimeter by six curving paths, with shrubberies around the edge and in groups in the enclosures made by paths.
Between 1848-9 University Hall was built on Nos. 14 & 15 Gordon Square as a hall of residence for University College but in 1890 became Dr Williams' library. The Catholic and Apostolic Church was built in 1851-4, now University Church of Christ the King.
By 1894 the garden layout had changed, with the paths from the four entrance gates in the centre of each side in serpentine lines, making two large areas within the gardens, with trees and a few isolated shrubberies around the edge of lawns and large shrubbery and trees between the paths and surrounding boundary fence along the east and west sides, and a garden building on the south side east of the entrance. The layout was simplified in the early C20th. In 1920 the Duke of Bedford agreed to sell the site to the Government for the building of University of London though this took some time to take effect. In 1928, still in the ownership of the Duke of Bedford the garden was described as an attractive ornamental garden with lawn, flower beds and some large trees surrounded by thick shrubbery and maintained by a Committee of inhabitants with rates levied by St Pancras Borough Council, although Bedford Estates office undertook works such as re-gravelling and planting. After WWII the gardens were restored and remained private gardens for residents and keyholders but were later opened to the public on weekdays.
There are many mature London planes and other trees, flower beds and grass plots between serpentine gravel walks with a woodland area in west. In 2007 the gardens were formally re-opened by HRH the Princess Royal following a 7-year restoration project of both Gordon and Woburn Squares funded by University of London, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wolfson Foundation and English Heritage. 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.
Restoration work was undertaken by Land Use Consultants and improvements in Gordon Square included new railings, conversion of the gardener's building into a refreshment kiosk, planting of trees, shrubs and roses. Two commemorative statues have been installed in the garden in recent years: a sculpture of the Indian poet, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), was unveiled by HRH The Prince of Wales in July 2011 (sculptor Shenda Amery). In November 2012 a memorial bust of Noor Inayat Khan (1914-44), was unveiled by HRH The Princess Royal. Noor had once lived nearby; an SOE agent who infiltrated occupied France, she was executed at Dachau Concentration Camp and was honoured with the GC, MBE and Croix de Guerre.
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.
Survey of London; E Beresford Chancellor 'The History of the Squares of London: Topographical and Historical', London 1907; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; F Peter Woodford ed., 'Streets of Bloomsbury & Fitzrovia' (Camden History Society, 1997).
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ297822 (529761,182249)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- University of London
- Site management:
- University of London; Gordon Square Garden Committee
- The Duke of Bedford
- Listed structures:
- LBI: Church of Christ the King & railings, walls. LBII: West: Nos. 1-5 & attached wall, 14 & 15 and attached railings/pillars; 16-25, 16 and attached railings; east: 47-53 & attached railings; south: 55-59 & railings; lamp post corner of Gordon Square /Tavistock Street
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- 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:
- To be checked
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Local Importance
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Yes - Area of Special Character: Central London Area
- Other LA designation:
- London Squares Preservation Act of 1931
Gordon Square Garden, June 2008. Photo: S Williams
Click a photo to enlarge.
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