Inventory Site Record

Onslow Square (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

The two areas of private communal gardens are separated by Sumner Place and were laid out in 1839. Onslow Square was developed for Henry Smith's Charity Estate to designs mainly by George Basevi. The Trustees of the Estate began building on the estate from 1823, appointing Basevi as architect in 1828, subsequently Henry Clutton from 1845, later succeeded by Charles James Freake from 1865. In the south-west corner of the square is St Paul's church also by Basevi. The garden retains its original railings and has a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs with lawn in the centre.

Practical Information
Site location:
Onslow Square
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Garden Square
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: South Kensington (District, Circle, Piccadilly)
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

Full Site Description

By the C17th the land in this area was largely owned by Henry Smith's Charity Estate, with part owned by the Thurloe Estate. Henry Smith, Alderman of London, had died in 1628 and left his fortune in trust for charity. The Trustees bought the estate c.1630 but the first recorded lease was not until 1664. A wedge of land within the Charity's Estate was owned by descendants of Sir William Blake (d.1630) and became the Thurloe Estate when Blake's descendent Anna Maria Browne conveyed it to John Thurloe Brace, her second husband, on their marriage in 1713. He was grandson to John Thurloe (1616-1668) Oliver Cromwell's Secretary of State. Two other parcels of land at the west of the Smith's Charity Estate by Sallad Lane separated a section of the estate lands, part of Brompton Heath and later the site of Evelyn Gardens, from the main estate land. The Trustees of Henry Smith were granted building leases by an Act of Parliament in 1772. Following the Napoleonic Wars the rapid development of areas of London began in earnest, including in this area of Kensington, which the Trustees of Henry Smith's Charity began to develop in 1823, appointing George Basevi as architect in 1828 and subsequently Henry Clutton from 1845, later succeeded by Charles James Freake, later Sir Charles, who built the extensive layout of large houses here from 1865.

Onslow Square is in two parts separated by Sumner Place, the houses designed mainly by George Basevi in grey brick, with some stucco. In the south-west corner of the square is St Paul's church, also by Basevi. The two areas of communal garden were laid out in 1839; in 1928 both remained in the ownership of the Trustees of the Smith's Charity Estate that on the east is described as a 'a large and attractive open space with well-kept lawns and some fine trees. Overlooked by dwelling-houses' and that on the west as 'flanked on two adjoining sides by roads, on one side by the rear of dwelling-houses and a church, and on the remaining side by the rear of Brompton Hospital. Laid out with lawns, flower beds and trees. Well-kept and attractive.' Both were maintained by a Garden Committee and for the use of lessees of adjoining houses who paid a proportion of expenses for maintenance; in the case of the eastern portion the leases expired in 1951 and in the western portion in 1935. The original railings are still there; the gardens have a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs and grass in the centre.

Famous residents of Onslow Square include Lewis Carroll at No. 101, Henry Cole, writer, initiator of postal reform and first Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, at No17, Admiral Robert Fitzroy, Captain of the 'Beagle' at No. 38, architect Sir Edwin Lutyens at No. 16, sculptor Carlo Marochetti at No. 34, writer and poet Sir Theodore Martin at No. 31, and novelist William Makepeace Thackeray at No. 36.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ268786 (526837,178584)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Wellcome Trust
Site management:
Listed structures:
LBII: 1-25 (odd), 41-109 (odd), 2-54 (even) Onslow Square; entrance arch to Park House between 7 & 11 Onslow Square; St Paul's Church
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:
Thurloe Estate & Smith's Charity
Tree Preservation Order:
Yes - Area of trees
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Onslow Square

Onslow Square (NE) - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 30/04/21 10:21

Click a photo to enlarge.

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