Inventory Site Record

Festival Gardens (City of London)

Brief Description

The Festival Gardens were laid out in 1951 by Sir Albert Richardson for the Corporation of London's contribution to the Festival of Britain. The layout, which followed the ground plan of pre-war buildings destroyed as a result of WWII bombing, consisted of a sunken lawn with a wall fountain, donated by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, surrounded by a raised paved terrace with stone parapets and seating, planting in tubs and a number of trees including a lime hedge. Georg Ehrlich's sculpture 'The Young Lovers' was purchased by the Corporation and installed in the gardens in 1969. The circular Festival Information Kiosk that was originally sited here was re-erected in nearby Carter Lane Garden in 1955, but since removed.

Practical Information
Site location:
New Change/Cannon Street
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
City of London
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Toilets adjacent
Public transport:
Tube: St Paul's (Central); Mansion House (District, Circle)
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/openspaces

Full Site Description

The Festival Gardens were laid out south-east of St Paul's Cathedral in 1951 by Sir Albert Richardson for the Corporation of London's contribution to the Festival of Britain, following the ground-plan of pre-war buildings on whose foundations it stood. The Corporation also intended the gardens to be a 'permanent War Memorial'. The site was formerly that of Old Change, a street dating from 1293 onwards. The formal layout consists of a sunken lawn with wall fountain water feature, a gift of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners in 1951, surrounded by raised paved terrace with stone parapets and seating, with planting in tubs and a number of trees including a lime hedge and a fine catalpa. An Information Pavilion was originally positioned east of the Festival Gardens but in 1955 was moved to nearby Carter Lane Garden (q.v.), where it has now been replaced by a new information building. Initially there were no other sculptures in the garden apart from the lion's head water spouts. In 1969 the Corporation's Trees, Gardens and City Open Spaces Committee set up a new fund to purchase sculpture and its first purchase was 'The Young Lovers' by Georg Ehrlich (1897-1966), which was installed on the upper terrace at the west end of the gardens in 1969. Ehrlich was a Viennese Jewish refugee who had fled Nazi persecution, arriving in England in c.1937. 'The Young Lovers' was created in 1950/1, with a cast shown at the LCC's open-air sculpture exhibition in Battersea Park in 1951; it was also exhibited in a retrospective of the artist's work in the Arts Council's gallery in St James's Square in 1964. The sculpture was unveiled in Festival Gardens in November 1969 at an event attended by Bettina Ehrlich, the artist's widow, and Frederick Cleary, Chairman of the Trees, Gardens and City Open Spaces Committee. A key promoter of open-air sculpture in the City between 1969-1983, he is commemorated in the nearby Cleary Garden (q.v.).

Some re-landscaping of the gardens was undertaken in 2012 as part of a wider project to improve the setting of St Paul's and create a high quality public space reflecting the significance of this location. In Festival Gardens the level of the soil was raised to create a sloping lawn that is now fully accessible from the pavement.

The re-landscaping works included improvements to Carter Lane Garden and also the creation of a new public garden to the west of the Festival Gardens, an area formerly used for coach parking for St Paul's. Named the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Garden, this opened in March 2012 and has predominantly herbaceous planting to provide seasonal interest, with box hedges delineating walkways and new lawn areas. Over 200 lavenders were planted by the St Paul's Choir school. The garden also has a number of works of art, a memorial to John Donne, poet and former Dean of St Paul’s, by artist Nigel Boonham, and a highly-reflective stainless steel sculpture, 'Amicale' by sculptor Paul Mount (1922-2009), which was made in 2007 and erected here in March 2012. A second, related sculpture by Mount is installed across the road to the south.

Sources consulted:

Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); F E Cleary, 'The Flowering City', The City Press, 1969; B Plummer and D Shewan, 'City Gardens', London, 1992; St Paul's Cathedral Conservation Area SPD, 2013; Philip Ward-Jackson, ‘Public Sculpture of the City of London’, vol 7 of the Public Sculpture of Britain Series (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, published by Liverpool University Press, 2003) pp.386-387; City Press, 20 November 1969 (quoted in Ward-Jackson).

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ321810 (532153,181083)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
City of London Corporation
Site management:
Open Spaces Dept.
Sir Albert Richardson
Listed structures:
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:
St Paul's Cathedral
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - St Paul's Heights Policy Area
Other LA designation:
Strategic Viewing Corridor; Monument Views and Setting

Festival Gardens

Festival Gardens, November 2002. Photo: S Williams

Festival Gardens, fountains with Georg Ehrlich sculpture on terrace, April 2016. Photograph Sally Williams
Festival Gardens, Site of Old Change plaque, April 2016. Photograph Sally Williams
Paul Mount sculpture on garden area to west of Festival Gardens, April 2016. Photograph Sally Williams
Festival Gardens, sloping lawn post 2012 re-landscaping, April 2016. Photograph Sally Williams
Festival Gardens with 'The Young Lovers' sculpture, November 2002. 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.