Eccleston Square * (Westminster)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Much of the Pimlico area was used for market gardening from the early C17th, known as the Neat House gardens after the nearby sub-manor of Neat. Owned by the Grosvenor family from 1677 it remained in use for market gardening until the 1820s when Thomas Cubitt leased the land for development. Eccleston Square was laid out in 1835, so-called from the village of Eccleston, part of the Duke of Westminster's lands in Cheshire. The railed rectangular garden, which was provided for residents of the square, is enclosed by dense shrubbery and mature trees including London plane, surrounding a peripheral path and lesser paths dividing the central lawn. It has been refurbished by local residents since 1984 and contains specialist collections including the National Collection of Ceanothus, and numerous unusual plants flourish here.
- Site location:
- Eccleston Square, Pimlico
- SW1V 1NP
- Type of site:
- Garden Square
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Has opened for OGSW and National Gardens Scheme. Otherwise private, for keyholders only
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 18 times, most recently in 2019.
- Special conditions:
- Tennis court, playground
- Public transport:
- Tube: Victoria (Victoria, District, Circle). Bus: 11, 24, 44, 211, C1
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.ecclestonsquaregarden.co.uk
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
Eccleston Square lies on level ground, and is bounded by the roads of Eccleston Square to the north-west and south-east, by Belgrave Road to the north-east and by St George's Drive to the south-west. Prior to housing development in the C19th it was low-lying marshy land owned by the Grosvenor family, the Dukes of Westminster, from 1677. It was owned by the Abbots of Westminster until the 1530s, who had a moated house known as Neat House, the sub-manor of Neat being within the larger Manor of Ebury. Here they had a number of gardens from at least the C13th that were used for growing a great variety of produce. When the land was taken by the Crown on the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Neat House was let but eventually became a ruin. The land was drained in the early C17th and it became part of a centre for market gardening known as the Neat House gardens. The use of the land for commercial market gardening probably dates from the 1620s, when it appears to have been leased as a series of separate holdings. It was bounded to the south by the Thames, and to the east along what is now Tachbrook Street, with Warwick Way to the north, formerly called Willow Walk. The land had a reservoir system and between the small canals were willows, which were cut to provide withies for basket-making for the vegetable carriers.
Housing development was particularly encouraged after Vauxhall Bridge Road was constructed in 1815, and the opening of Vauxhall Bridge in 1816 and of Grosvenor Canal in 1825. When Thomas Cubitt (1788-1855) began to develop the land, he had soil brought in to raise the level of the swampy ground, possibly material excavated for the construction of St Katharine's Dock by the Tower of London, another project of his. Cubitt also established nurseries to grow plants for his garden squares here and elsewhere. Eccleston Square was laid out in 1835, but the houses were not completed until after Cubitt's death in 1855.
The houses of Eccleston Square overlook the private garden provided for the use of residents, which remains in the ownership of the Duke of Westminster. Dense shrubbery and mature trees surround a peripheral path and lesser paths dividing central lawn. The layout shown on the 1869 OS Map is thought to reflect the original layout and remains remarkably unchanged today except for the addition of some minor paths. A perimeter path with a wide outer shrub border is connected from side to side in the central area in an hour-glass formation, divided by a central path with a circular bed at the centre. In 1928 it was described as 'a long rectangular area surrounded by thick shrubberies and laid out as an ornamental garden with some well-grown trees', and was maintained by lessees and occupiers of surrounding houses, and controlled by a Committee of residents. It was originally planted with 36 London plane trees, some of which remain and some early rope edging tiles also survive. During WWII the garden was used for growing vegetables and the railings were removed for the war effort, later reinstated with iron railings of a similar design.
Regeneration of the garden was begun by local residents in 1984, but trees were lost in the storm of 1987. In 1989 proposals for a 900-space underground car park beneath the square were defeated but resulted in the setting up of The Society for the Protection of London Squares (SPOLS). In recent years, planting has aimed to give year-round interest with many specialist collections such as ceanothus, camellias, climbing and shrub roses. Soil improvement has enabled extensive new planting and notable features include a rock garden, a wisteria arbour, an iris garden and a fern garden. In 2006 a Wollemi pine was donated, a species thought to be extinct until it was discovered in Australia. The garden has won several prizes in recent years, including the top prize awarded by the National Garden Society in 2011. The tennis court is well-screened and a children's play area has unobtrusive cedar wood equipment. Mature trees include fine planes, with acacia, chestnut, lime, and numerous smaller trees and flowering shrubs such as holly, laburnum, laurustinus, lilac, flowering cherry, fatsia, rowan and bamboo with herbaceous bedding at the south-western end of the square.
E Cecil, 'London Parks and Gardens', 1907 p.239; E B Chancellor, 'The History of the Squares of London', 1907 pp. 335-336; Arabella Lennox-Boyd, 'Private Gardens of London', London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990; D V H Eyre, 'The Garden Enclosures of Squares in the City of Westminster: Past, Present & Future', (1995, unpublished); N. Pevsner, rev. B Cherry, London I, 1952, p.635; I Watson, 'Westminster and Pimlico Past. A Visual History', 1993, pp.76,77 and 79; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares (1928); Malcolm Thick, 'The Neat House Gardens, Early Market Gardening Around London' (Prospect Books, 1998)
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- Site management:
- Garden Committee
- Thomas Cubitt
- Listed structures:
- LBII: Buildings: on the west side, nos. 1 to 3, 4 to 18, 19 to 26; on the south side nos. 27 to 41, on the east side nos. 53 to 74 and on the north side nos. 79 to 81.
- 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:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Borough Importance I
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
Eccleston Square - Photo: Diana Jarvis
Date taken: 28/08/15 15:22
Click photo to enlarge.