Inventory Site Record

Arbour Square Gardens

Arbour Square Gardens (Tower Hamlets)

Brief Description

Arbour Square was built on land belongingto the Mercers Company as the area was rapidly developed in the early C19th. The name derives from Arbour Field on the Mercers Estate. In 1904 Arbour Square Gardens was opened to the public by the London County Council, who leased it from the Mercers Company.

Practical Information
Site location:
Arbour Square, Stepney
Type of site:
Garden Square;, Public Gardens
Listed structures:
LBII: 50-60 (consec.) Arbour Square, 1-13 (consec.) Arbour Square, Raine’s Foundation School. Local list: 3-19 Arbour Square, 42-49 Arbour Square
Tower Hamlets
Site ownership:
LB Tower Hamlets
Site management:
Leisure Services, Parks and Open Spaces
Open to public?
Opening times:
8am - dusk
Special conditions:
Public transport:
DLR/London Overground: Shadwell; Bus 15 (check others)

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Arbour Square, along with West Arbour Street, East Arbour Street and Arbour Terrace, was built on land belonging to the Mystery of Mercer/Mercers Company, the name of the square derived from the company's 12 acre Arbour Field. The central garden was originally surrounded by 3-storey houses that were built between 1819 and 1830. The north side of the square was acquired by Stepney Borough Council in 1921 with the intention of building a Town Hall; a design competition for the new building had been won by Briggs Wolstenhome and Thornely in 1909. However, this was never built and eventually the north terrace was demolished by the Borough Council to build flats in 1937. The east side terrace had also been replaced by a school building in 1913 when Raine's Foundation Schools (founded by Henry Raine in 1719) moved here from Cannon Street Road. When Raine's School moved to Bethnal Green in 1985 the figures of a boy and a girl that had stood in niches over the side entrances to separate playgrounds at the back were removed but replicas were placed in the niches of the original school building in 1988.

In 1904 Arbour Square Gardens was opened to the public by the London County Council (LCC). Still in the ownership of the Mercers Company as Trustees of a Foundation called or known as 'St Paul's School' founded by Dean Colet, the garden, like that of York Square (q.v.), was leased to the LCC on a yearly tenancy of 5s per annum. In 1928 the garden was described as 'a square-shaped enclosure surrounded by a privet hedge and shrubbery. Attractively laid out with broad asphalt paths, lawns and flower beds. Contains some well-grown trees.'

The garden was completely refurbished in 1995 in a formal style with numerous ornamental beds within a central oval lawn behind low railings, which has a paved pathway around it. There is some planting around the perimeter, new seating, and an area to the south with a series of trellis screens, seating and shrubbery.

Sources consulted:

Tom Ridge, Central Stepney History Walk, (Central Stepney Regeneration Board) 1998; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; Albert Gardens Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Guidelines, October 2007

Further Information
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
On EH National Register :
EH grade:
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:
Albert Gardens
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act, 1931

Arbour Square Gardens

Arbour Square Gardens, September 2010. Photo: S Williams

Click photo to enlarge.

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