Inventory Site Record

Finsbury Circus Gardens *

Finsbury Circus Gardens * (City of London)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

The site of Finsbury Circus Garden was once part of Finsbury Manor Estate. A moor existed here until 1527, which was subsequently drained and gravelled walks laid out. Bethlehem Royal Hospital was at the southern end of Moor Field from 1675/6 until 1815, following which the Moorfields estate was developed. Finsbury Circus was enclosed in 1812 and the oval garden laid out in 1815-17 to designs of George Dance the Younger by City Surveyor William Montague. Initially a private garden for the surrounding residents, the garden was acquired in 1900 by the City Corporation for public use. The City's only bowling green was built here in 1925, and the bandstand dates from 1955. During WWII a barrage balloon was anchored on the gardens.

Practical Information
Site location:
Finsbury Circus
Type of site:
Public Gardens
City of London
Open to public?
Opening times:
8am-dusk weekdays and weekends April-Sept (closed weekends Oct-March)
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 6 times, most recently in 2009.
Special conditions:
Bowling Green
Concerts (City of London Festival). Has opened for OGSW
Public transport:
Tube: Moorgate (Hammersmith & City, Circle, Northern, Metropolitan). Rail: Moorgate. Bus: 133, 153, 205, 214, 21, 43, 76, 100, 141

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

The site of Finsbury Circus Garden was once part of Finsbury Manor Estate. Until 1527 there was a moor here, which was then drained and gravelled walks laid out across open fields. By the mid C17th the southern part known as Moor Fields was laid out with more formal walks dividing quartered lawns edged by lines of trees and fencing. Bethlehem Royal Hospital, founded in 1247, moved in 1675/6 to the southern end of Moor Field along the line of the City Wall. After the Bethlehem Hospital was demolished in 1815, the Moorfields estate was redeveloped although George Dance the Younger had conceived the idea of an oval 'amphitheatre' here as early as 1802. The gardens were laid out in 1815-17 to his designs by the City Surveyor William Montague. Initially a committee of leaseholders of the surrounding residential terraced houses maintained the gardens.

In 1864 the Metropolitan Railway Company cut a tunnel through the site and contributed an annual £100 to the upkeep of the gardens. By the 1890s the residential nature of the area had been superseded by commercial interests and in 1898 the Comptroller of the City Lands Committee recommended in a report that an Act of Parliament be obtained to ensure that the gardens were kept as public open space. As a result the garden was acquired by the City Corporation for public use in 1900 although it was not until 1909 that new facilities and planting were undertaken. Some of the layout of the early C19th remains, including the perimeter walk and serpentine paths leading off the outer walk. Until the 1920s mulberries were still harvested here.

The Bowling Green was constructed in 1925, and was the only bowling green in the City until the 1960s when a bowling green was provided in nearby Finsbury Square. The Finsbury Circus bowling green was enlarged in 1968 when a new pavilion was built to replace the early C20th bowling hut, greenhouse and tool shed. In 1928 the gardens were described as 'surrounded by thick shrubberies and attractively laid out with bowling green, flower beds and shrubberies'. During WWII a barrage balloon was anchored on the gardens. To the west of the bowling green, the bandstand with railed seating area was erected in 1955, restored in the 1990s, which prior to the early C20th was the site of shrubbery.

North of the bowling green is a pink granite drinking fountain dating from 1902, designed by John Whitehead & Son of Westminster, with a shelter based on a design of a well by Philip Webb for William Morris's Red House (q.v.) in Bexleyheath. The original entrances to the gardens were via gates in the north-west, north-east, south-west and south-east corners but this was altered in the early C20th to the current entrances on north, south, west and east sides.

The gardens have bedding displays, shrub borders with camellias, bamboos and Japanese aralia, and among the trees are mature London plane trees and a pagoda tree. At present c.two-thirds of the gardens are inaccessible as part of the construction site for the Crossrail project, and the estimated date of completion of these works is 2017, when the gardens will be re-instated.

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.

Sources consulted:

NHLE Register: 'Finsbury Circus Gardens' Report by Mr Comptroller, July 1898; London Squares Preservation Act 1931, Appendix III; N Pevsner and B Cherry, 'London I' 3rd ed (revised) 1973; Dorothy Stroud 'George Dance', 1971; Report by Elain Harwood, English Heritage, December 1990. F E Cleary, 'The Flowering City', The City Press, 1969; B Plummer and D Shewan, 'City Gardens', London, 1992; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ328816 (532865,181615)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
City of London Corporation
Site management:
Open Spaces Dept., City Gardens Team
1815-17; 1900
George Dance the Younger
Listed structures:
LBII: 1902 Drinking fountain. Surrounding houses: LBII*: 1-6 Finsbury Square (Lutyens House) & 94-100 Moorgate. LBII: 16-18 & 26-31 Eldon Street, 25 London Wall Buildings, 31 Salisbury House.
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:
Finsbury Circus
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Strategic View - Consultation Area

Finsbury Circus Gardens *

Finsbury Circus Gardens, April 2006. Photo: S Williams

Click photo to enlarge.

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