Kensington Gardens Square (Westminster)
Kensington Gardens Square in Bayswater is a mid-C19th town square of stucco-fronted houses, originally built as family houses for members of the then-emerging professional classes. The communal garden, which continues to be for the private use of residents of the surrounding houses, is roughly triangular, and is divided east / west by a terrace of houses to create two discrete garden areas. The gardens' railings were removed in WWII and replaced with wire mesh, although replica wrought-iron railings have been reinstated as part of the upgrading of the gardens. The gardens are largely lawn, with shrubs and a perimeter path; among the trees are a number of fine London planes.
- Site location:
- Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater
- W2 4DJ
- What 3 Words:
- Type of site:
- Garden Square
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Private, for keyholders only
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 24 times, most recently in 2023.
- Special conditions:
- Public transport:
- Tube: Bayswater (District, Circle). Bus: 7, 15, 23, 27, 28, 31, 70, 94, 148, 328
- Research updated:
- Last minor changes:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.kgsgarden.org.uk
Full Site Description
Kensington Gardens Square is a London town square of 6-storey stucco-fronted houses originally built in the mid-C19th as family houses for members of the then-emerging professional classes. Central communal gardens shown on Edward Weller's 1868 Map of London were created for the use of residents of the surrounding houses.
Development of Bayswater took place from the early C19th onwards, having been until 1807 a small hamlet known for its tea gardens and water supply. Beginning in 1856, Kensington Gardens Square, Leinster and Princes Squares (q.q.v.) were part of a scheme built by speculator George Wyatt. Stucco was a favoured decorative feature influenced by nearby Regent's Park estate developed by John Nash for the Crown Estate. Each of these garden squares provided communal gardens for the surrounding houses and Leinster Square was the first to be completed in 1864. Edward Weller's Map of London shows all three squares with gardens laid out.
By the mid 1860s the area was entirely built over. With the expansion of the railway in the latter half of the C19th, hotels had sprung up as a requirement for the travelling public together with commercial premises, thus changing the social fabric of Bayswater. When William Whiteley expanded his enterprise south of Westbourne Grove to a site adjacent to the Municipal Baths, and his new department store completed in 1911, he established dormitories for his staff in Queen's Road and dining rooms in Kensington Gardens Square. However, this trend is gradually being reversed with hotels being returned to private residences.
Kensington Gardens Square has two communal gardens divided by a row of houses built in the same style as the rest of the square. In 1928, the two enclosures were described as follows: one was 'very small, flanked on all sides by roads', the other, larger garden was 'attractively laid out as lawns, with some well grown trees overlooked by hotels and private houses’. At that time the garden was owned by a Col. C W Sofer Whitburn and Mrs M F Christie, but was maintained and controlled by a Committee of residents of the surrounding properties who had the right to use the garden. This description stands today except the private houses have been divided into flats. A Garden Committee manages and maintains the gardens on behalf of residents as has been the case in various iterations since this period.
WWII had led to the removal of the railings, with the gardens being bounded by wire mesh fencing, sadly to no effect, and a degree of neglect ensued. However, since the 1990s, the gardens have undergone a renaissance with a strong Garden Committee, thoughtful interventions, keen gardening and greater community engagement. Structurally, gates to both gardens and short stretches of railings as close in design as possible to the originals were replaced in 2002, with the intention that the remainder would be replaced once funds permitted. Pathways were also upgraded. A decision was taken to turn both gardens organic and the soil has been substantially improved. Whilst there has been inevitable tree loss, they are also being replaced, with there being greater light as a consequence.
Within the northern small garden a design has been implemented comprising an entrance gravel circle with a serpentine path leading to a small lawn, then to a sitting and garden working area. Planting of small trees and shrubs including Acers, perennial plants and annuals that flourish in a shady canopied environment has taken place to complement the existing three mature London Planes. The overall effect is of walking through a small and charmed woodland glade.
The considerably larger southerly garden is enclosed by privet hedging with six mature London Planes equally spaced on the east and west sides. A perimeter path separates the large central lawn from the surrounding beds, with decorative beds cut into the central spine of the lawn, each centred on a mulberry tree, a magnolia and a group of three silver birch. On the 1872 OS map, a central feature is marked, but this is no longer in existence. Several ornamental plum trees, lime trees and a variety of smaller trees and shrubs can be observed and residents come together each year to undertake a substantial planting of spring and summer bulbs creating welcome displays of colour. At the garden’s southern end there is a ‘wilder’ area with ferns and mixed planting intersected by small paths. To each side there are a series of compost bays to enable self-sufficiency together with a seedlings nursery. Nesting boxes for smaller birds and bats as well as bee ‘hotels’ have been mounted on trees, all part of the quest for sustainability.
Both gardens have proved welcome havens for residents, with the large southern garden particularly suitable for larger groups and families.
OGSW booklet 2007; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West', (1991 reprint 1999), p.692; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; Alan Baxter & Associates 'Conservation Area Audit No. 6', 2000; 'Paddington: Bayswater', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9: Hampstead, Paddington (1989), pp.204-212. Updated information from Kensington Gardens Square Garden Association.
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ256810 (525680,181015)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- Site management:
- Kensington Gardens Square Garden Association
- Listed structures:
- LBII: 1-14; 15-47, 48, 54-61, 63-71, 75-85, 86-92 Kensington Gardens 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:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
Kensington Gardens Square, southern garden, looking north, 2021. Photograph courtesy Simon Glucina.
Click a photo to enlarge.
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