Inventory Site Record

The Boltons (including St Mary the Boltons Church) * (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

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

Private communal gardens provided for residents of the houses that surround it, which were built as part of the Gunter Estate development that took place from 1840s. This area of the estate was the first to be developed and the garden is bisected by the oval site containing St Mary's Church also built by George Godwin, the Gunter Estate surveyor. The garden was laid out with trees, shrubs, lawns and flower beds.

Practical Information
Site location:
The Boltons
Type of site:
Garden Square
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
main gardens private, but unrestricted area round church
Special conditions:
Concerts in church
Public transport:
London Overground/Tube (District): West Brompton
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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 https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. 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.

The Boltons was laid out on the Gunter Estate from the late 1840s by George Godwin (1815-1888), estate surveyor and editor of 'The Builder' from 1844-1883. The houses, church and gardens form a unified group and represent the first phase of building on the Gunter Estate. The Gunter family had made their money selling confectionery and had begun to acquire land in the area from the latter part of the C18th; James Gunter had become a partner of successful Italian pastrycook Domenico Negri, whose business at 7 Berkeley Square was established in 1757 and soon became prosperous. James began investing his money in land in the then rural area around Brompton Lane (now Old Brompton Road), including a house to the north, Earls Court House, where the family lived. When his son Robert inherited the business on his death in 1819 the land holding was considerable and included a property called Coleherne or Homefield purchased from a William Bolton in 1807. But although some plots had been let for building by the mid 1840s, 73 of the estate's c.81 acres remained undeveloped and leased to farmers and market gardeners.

From the late 1840s Robert Gunter began to develop the estate lands, beginning with The Boltons and moving north and east with large houses and terraces. His sons James and Robert continued to develop the estate following his death in 1852. George Godwin was appointed estate surveyor in 1848. By then, Godwin, who was local to Kensington, already had useful experience as District Surveyor for South Islington, and had erected one or two houses on Fulham Road with his father, also an architect or builder. As estate surveyor Godwin was responsible for the overall street layout and amenities, and overseeing the work undertaken by the contractors and developers who leased the building plots. The building of The Boltons took place in two phases; in 1851 William Henry Atkinson of Cheyne Walk took leases on the east side building plots, and the houses were occupied by 1854. In 1859 Robert Gunter leased the west side to John Spicer (d.1883) of Pimlico, who went on to take on many other leases on the estate in the 1860s and 1870s to become one of its principal developers. The Boltons is an oval site, cut across by St Mary's Church in the middle, which was built in 1850 by Godwin and was the first building of The Boltons.

In 1928 the freeholder was Sir Robert V Gunter and freeholders and leaseholders of houses abutting the garden had access on payment of enclosure rent, collected by one of the residents who was responsible for maintenance. At that time the garden was described as 'laid out as attractive ornamental gardens with shrubs and trees around the border.' The railed gardens are on level ground with entrances at the north and south ends. The railings were replaced in the 1970s. Both areas area enclosed by mixed shrubbery, including laburnum, lilac, privet, prunus with peripheral paths and central lawns with island areas of shrubbery. The fine mature trees include ash, catalpa, chestnut, lime, plane and ailanthus.

The garden area around the church is the only part that is publicly accessible, a pleasant area with seating, adjoining the private railed gardens of The Boltons on either side. Restoration of the church has recently been completed as a result of which restoration of the landscaping around the building is underway, including a rock garden, gravel paths, flowers and shrubs. The gardens are for use by residents only. Protected under 1851 Garden Square Act. A plaque on the north gate pier records the garden was recipient of a RBKC Environmental Award in 1983.

Sources consulted:

EH Register: N Pevsner, 'London except . . . Westminster', 1952, p244, 267. The Boltons Conservation Area Policy Statements; The Parish Church of St Mary The Boltons, Annual Report, 2001; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ261782 (526160,178240)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
private (Church: Diocese of London)
Site management:
Bolton Gardens Association; Friends of St Mary's
George and Henry Godwin
Listed structures:
LBII: St Mary the Boltons Church; 1-28 The Boltons
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:
The Boltons
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Article 4 Direction: 1-28 The Boltons

The Boltons (including St Mary the Boltons Church) *

The Boltons - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 29/04/21 11:12

Click a photo to enlarge.

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