Inventory Site Record

Thurloe Square Garden (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

This private communal garden was provided for residents of Thurloe Square, which was built on the Thurloe Estate. The Estate had passed to John Alexander in 1799, who began house development on the land from 1826. His son Henry Browne Alexander undertook the second phase of building from 1840, which included Thurloe Square. The south-west corner was demolished to make way for the underground railway in 1867. The garden has lawn, shrubberies, borders and flower beds, numerous mature trees and original railings.

Practical Information
Site location:
Thurloe 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 24 times, most recently in 2023.
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: South Kensington (District, Circle, Piccadilly). Bus: C1, 14, 49, 70, 74, 360
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

Full Site Description

The Thurloe Estate was a wedge of land within the larger Henry Smith's Charity Estate that 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 who, it is said, was presented with land in Brompton by Cromwell for services rendered during the Commonwealth. In 1799 the estate passed to John Alexander, who was both a descendent of Anna Maria Browne's first marriage and godson to John Thurloe Brace's son Harris Thurloe Brace. John Alexander expanded his estate in 1808 when he purchased the Bell and Horns Inn from Lord Kensington, Lord of the Manor of Earls Court, but did not begin development until 1826 when he drew up a building agreement with the speculative builder James Bonnin to develop Alexander Square (q.v.), the eastern terraces of South Street, Alfred Place, North Terrace, Alexander Place and York Cottages. The agreement stipulated that the buildings should conform to the overall design of John Alexander's surveyor who at that time may have been the architect George Godwin the elder. However in 1829 George Basevi was appointed architect.

After John Alexander's death in 1831, the work was continued by his son Henry Browne Alexander and the second phase of building began from 1840 and included Thurloe Square, begun in 1840 by Basevi, which announced a new era in Italianate town house design. Sir Henry Cole (1808-1882), campaigner and educator and first Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, lived at No. 33. The south-west corner was demolished to make way for the underground railway in 1867. The original railings enclose an area very densely planted around the edge with trees and shrubs. There is an open area of lawn in the centre and winding tarmac paths with fine shrubberies, borders and flower beds, and numerous mature trees.

The governance of Thurloe Square Gardens derives from Thurloe Owners and Leaseholders Association (TOLA), which represents all owners of freehold or leasehold property within the area of the Anstruther South Kensington Estates Estate Management Scheme (EMS). The Rights Users (drawn from houses and flats surrounding the square) elect two block representatives to act on their behalf. In 2008 the block representatives, in agreement with the landlord, formed a company limited by guarantee to administer the gardens: Thurloe Square Gardens, and a lease was then agreed with the landlord. The two directors are the two elected block representatives, who invited Susan Walker (TOLA estate architect) to join the board.

Management of the garden is overseen by Thurloe Square Gardens, which has drawn up the following horticultural policy: "to respect the original Victorian concept of the design: a structured plan integrating curved inner paths, which invite curiosity and exploration, and straight perimeter paths which parallel the surrounding roads, to create a charmingly informal space – a pleasure garden. From within, dense perimeter planting creates a sense of privacy. The perimeter planting also contrasts with the solid classical façade of terraces that surround the Square on three sides, and conceals the vehicular bustle of the Cromwell Road to the north. Major trees in the perimeter beds, as well as major trees within the central area of the garden, create a sense of scale and permanence all year round, and, when in leaf, add to the pleasurable sense of ‘privacy’ within. Maintaining, infilling and replacing, as necessary, the major trees around the perimeter, and centrally, is an ongoing commitment, and an essential part of long term planning. Similarly, we are keeping the perimeter planting dense and substantially to eye level or above, with a renewal program to replace some of the senescent shrubs such as lilac and aucuba. The concept of landscape unfolding as you walk through the Square requires densely planted, internal shrub and mixed borders as well, of at least medium height and containing enough evergreens to create a sense of opacity."

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); RBKC Thurloe Estate and Smith's Charity Conservation Area Proposal Statement; Thurloe Square Gardens website: https://www.thurloesquaregardens.com/history/ . TOLA website: https://www.tola.org.uk/estate-history 

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ270789 (527017,178922)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Thurloe Estate (Bircham & Co Nominees (No. 2) Ltd/James William Dolman/Ian Fife Campbell Anstruther)
Site management:
Thurloe Square Gardens
George Basevi
Listed structures:
LBII: Nos. 6-33 (consec.) and 35-51 (consec.) Thurloe 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:
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:

Thurloe Square Garden

Thurloe Square - Photo: Gavin Gardiner
Date taken: 12/06/11 10:26

Click a photo to enlarge.

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