Inventory Site Record

Carlyle Square Gardens (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

This is one of a series of squares lined by listed terraces along the King's Road developed by the Cadogan Estate. The private communal garden was provided for the use of lessees of adjoining and nearby houses; although the houses were not completed until 1867 it appears that the garden was the first element to be laid out in 1836. At one time within the Manor of Chelsea, land in the area was purchased by Sir Hans Sloane in 1712; on his death his estate was divided between his two daughters, the eastern part going to Elizabeth, becoming the Cadogan Estate on her marriage to Charles Cadogan. With architect Henry Holland, Cadogan began developing the 90-acre estate from the 1770s, to be called Hans Town. The garden has reinstated cast iron railings, and is laid out with grass, shrubs and trees, and a central feature. Formerly known as Oakley Square, its name was changed in 1875 in honour of the philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who lived in Chelsea.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Oakley Square
Site location:
Carlyle Square
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Garden Square
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
Has opened for OGSW. Otherwise private, for keyholders only
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 7 times, most recently in 2005.
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: Sloane Square (District, Circle), South Kensington (Circle, District, Piccadilly). Bus: 11, 19, 22, 211
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

By the early C17th, grand houses, among them those of Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More (Beaufort House) were established around the old village of Chelsea. In subsequent decades more building took place both along the river as well as further inland particularly up Church Lane, now Old Church Street, which developed northwards to the Queen's Elm. This is where Queen Elizabeth I is supposed to have sheltered from the rain with Lord Burghley; the 'Queen's Tree' was recorded as early as 1586 and an arbour was built around it. In the early C16th an area between Duke's Walk and Lovers' Walk called 'Sand Hill's was part of Sir Thomas More's estate, in 1664 called Lord Wharton's Park. After Wharton sold his property in 1714 it became known as Chelsea Park. By c.1718 it had been purchased for a mulberry garden with the purpose of manufacturing raw silk but the venture failed, and Chelsea Park was gradually built over for housing. Park Walk was developed from Lovers' Walk in late C18th and the Camera Square area developed in the early C19th. King's Road, once a private highway, was fronted by villas, terraces and public houses by the 1830s, and through the C19th these properties were extended over their forecourts and behind.

Carlyle Square is a rare exception that survived this redevelopment of widened frontage. It was built by the Cadogan Estate and its original name of Oakley Square was a courtesy title of Earl Cadogan; the King's Road terraces were first to be built from 1836, but the square was not completed until 1867. According to Thompson's Map of 1836, the garden was the first element to be laid out. It was renamed Carlyle Square in 1875 (1872?) after Thomas Carlyle, who lived at No. 24 Cheyne Row from 1834-1881, and whose garden still exists (see Carlyle's House Garden, q.v.). Chelsea became popular with artists, writers and thinkers and by the end of the C19th was well known as an artistic quarter, with the area around The Vale developed specifically for 'occupation by artists, architects, musicians, writers and professional people of modest means'. Among the residents of Carlyle Square were Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell and William Walton at No. 2, where, on 24 January 1922 Walton and Edith Sitwell collaborated on 'Façade' a fusion of music and poetry, performed behind a curtain designed by the artist Frank Dobson (see O. Sitwell, 'Laughter in the Next Room', 1949).

In 1928 Carlyle Square Garden is described as an ornamental garden surrounded by bushes and shrubs that were 'sparse in parts and admit of a view of the enclosure from the outside'. It was accessible only to leaseholders of the surrounding houses as well as those living in adjoining streets and managed by 'a Committee of householders to whom the fees of leaseholders having rights are transferred'. In more recent years the garden frontage onto King's Road was changed to connect the two sides of the square independently of King's Road and to extend the garden on that frontage, along which cast iron railings were reinstated. The gardens today contain a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs and has a metal pergola in a central circular bed, grass and gravel paths.

Sources consulted:

Beresford Chancellor; RBKC Chelsea Park Carlyle Conservation Area Proposals Statement, 1992; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ269780 (526971,178001)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Carlyle Square Gardens Ltd
Site management:
Listed structures:
LBII: 1, 2, 3, 40, 41, 42 Carlyle Square
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:
Chelsea Park / Carlyle
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Article 4 Direction

Carlyle Square Gardens

Carlyle Square - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 29/04/21 10:29

Click a photo to enlarge.

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