Prince's Square Gardens (Westminster)
Prince’s Square, begun in 1856, was largely the work of builder and speculator George Wyatt. It is not known who designed the central garden, which was probably in place by 1861 when a residents’ garden committee was convened to manage it. Their records indicate the emphasis placed on good behaviour and maintaining the ornamental plantings. The layout depicted on the 1869 OS map shows a perimeter hedge of closely spaced trees and shrubs, a perimeter path and a central circular bed surrounded by paths on a central east-west alignment, either side of which were two mature trees, presumably the London plane trees that remain today. Mid-late C20th refurbishment included replacement iron railings, the originals probably removed in WWII, and new herbaceous plants, roses and evergreen shrubs with central lawn areas. The garden was neglected by 2007, but since then improvement works have been undertaken under a new Gardens Committee.
- Site location:
- Prince's Square, Bayswater
- W2 4PU
- Type of site:
- Garden Square
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Private, keyholders only
- Special conditions:
- Children's playground
- Public transport:
- Tube: Bayswater
- Research updated:
- Last minor changes:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.
Full Site Description
In the early C19th Bayswater covered an area roughly bounded by Paddington, Lancaster Gate and Kensington. Greenwood’s Map of 1830 shows the extent of the built-up area at that time, and the site of Prince's Square was still open fields. Building activity, while increasing from the late 1820s, remained fragmented. In Bayswater, leases were made to speculators, many of them builders, who acquired several plots in different streets. Among the speculators were Matthew Cotes Wyatt who put up some of the capital, whilst his sons Matthew, George and Henry did the designing and building. The Wyatt family included several of the important English architects across the C18th and C19th, although George Wyatt, who was responsible for Prince's Square, was not a major member of the dynasty. He over-speculated and went bankrupt in 1846. Prince's Square is a pair with Leinster Square (q.v.).
It is not known who designed the garden at Prince's Square. The gardens of the small and medium-sized C19th squares usually followed a familiar pattern with a symmetrical design, an outer belt of trees and shrubs around the perimeter to provide shelter and some privacy, a walk around the inside of this and the centre laid out as grass. There was usually a central feature, a statue, fountain or, more often, a flower bed or group of ornamental trees and shrubs. The garden was often crossed by further footpaths linking the centre of the gardens to the entrances. The pattern was simple enough to be designed and planted by a local nurseryman, the building speculator or a gifted amateur. The garden would be secured with railings and gates were kept locked. The garden would be secured with railings and gates were kept locked. It was not open to the public.
The garden at Prince’s was probably in place by 1861 as the garden committee was convened then. One record states that the committee was ‘convened by notice’ dated 13 June 1861 and another by deed of appointment of Prince’s Square Garden Committee by trustees of the estate of the late H J Bartley, the superior landlord. Thirteen residents of Prince’s Square convened a meeting in 1861 and elected nine members who lived on the square. The purpose of forming a committee was for making rules and regulations and for the maintenance and management of the garden. The chair was a Mr A Pulling from No.14. All early committee members were male, with a female committee member not recorded until as late as 1919. The committee met annually (in May in the 1890s) and there were about five members attending. The Treasurer presented the accounts and these were confirmed and matters concerning the garden discussed. The committee spent much of their time policing the square. In 1861 the rules for Prince’s Square were printed. The six rules included stipulation that no servants were to be admitted except in charge of invalids and children, and no lodgers or boarders. ‘No dogs are to be suffered to enter the Garden, except lead by a string’. The committee employed a full time gardener from 1861 who was also termed a square keeper on the rules of 1861 and so was required to enforce them.
Stanford’s Map of 1862 shows the square although the width of its garden appears much smaller when compared to its size on the later 1869 OS map, but it is not clear why. In 1863 one archive entry mentions an ‘irregularity’; tantalisingly we do not know what this was, but it was serious enough for the Secretary to call the attention of the committee and, in order to prevent a similar irregularity, the Secretary suggested that a circular be sent to every member in the square. If the committee members approved they were to sign their names.
The first map to show the garden in detail is the 1869 Ordnance Survey First Edition map, which probably shows something close to the garden’s original layout. The map depicts a rectangular layout with a perimeter hedge of closely spaced trees and shrubs and a perimeter path within. Within the perimeter path a north-south alignment of three trees at either end of the garden is shown. The garden is a rectangle measuring c 125 x 28m, bounded by a row of 20 terraced houses on the north side and by the street layout on the other three sides. The map also shows paths from the back gardens of the terraces leading into the communal garden, which has one central circular bed that appears to contain shrubs, surrounded by paths. The bed is on a central east-west alignment with four mature trees, two either side.
In 1882 an archive entry recorded in the minutes the new rules for Prince’s Square garden, including that: ‘no person other than an owner or occupier shall be entitled to possess a key of the Gates of the Garden and he shall not permit such key to be given or lent to or used by any person except members of his household’; it was ‘unfit for games, such as lawn tennis, croquet, cricket or rounders, such games are forbidden’; noisy or disorderly conduct and the letting off of fireworks were not allowed and ‘Cycles of all kinds and perambulators are prohibited’; ‘the use of bats, balls, kites, hoops and bows and arrows are strictly prohibited’; and another rule stated that ‘no carpets, rugs, doormats or articles of furniture shall be beaten, cleaned or dusted, in any part of the garden’. These rules were then printed, including issues such as not leaving rubbish and not damaging the gardens. The pre-occupation with policing the square continued as in 1887 the Prince’s Square committee resolved to ask Leinster Square’s committee if they could join together to employ a constable to keep order in the squares but there were objections to carrying out the suggestion. Another 1887 record states that ‘the Treasurer was requested to have the Notice on the Gates as to the non-admission of Dogs repainted as the rule was frequently broken’. Another record of 1889 reported ‘continued complaints of residents of the unruly games and noise occurring therefore it was proposed by the Chair and carried unanimously that a letter . . . Should be sent round the occupants of the houses and also that two suitable cases containing the rules should be placed in permanent positions in the garden’. The committee were concerned with maintenance of the gardens. One record states that: ‘the Committee viewed the Trees in the garden about which some complaints had been made by the occupiers, after discussion it was resolved to cut down seventh Tree from the Kensington Garden Square end of the Garden and lop and trim the others in the row but not so as to disfigure them’ (1889). Another record reports ‘the grass which had suffered severely from the drought of last summer. It was proposed to the chair and carried unanimously that the gardener at his suggestion should be to asked to manure the ground in the autumn this being the most suitable time of the year’ (1889).
The 1896 map shows little change to the layout. The perimeter path had changed shape and on this map is shown with rounded corners making it oval-shaped rather than rectangular. Photographs dated c1900 show that part of the side of the square (where the side gates are now) were once more elaborate with a stone wall and balustrading with the side access (not clearly visible) flanked by stone pillars mounted with stone ball decorations. The original boundary railings can be seen on postcards dated 1904 and c.1910, the latter showing the mature trees.
The archives show that everyone who lived around the square had to pay towards its upkeep. Garden rates were recorded showing that the charge was £1 10s per annum per house (recorded 1907). Surprisingly the garden rate did not rise with inflation so that by 1919 and 1939 the rate was still 30 shillings. Perhaps this was because of WWI and the subsequent depression. There was some ill feeling in the squares about paying the rate and letters of complaint written from residents to the committee remain in the archive. For example, in 1900 the occupier of No. 68 stated ‘we shall not use nor have we a view of it’; and in 1904 No. 25 clamed exemption from the garden rate as ‘no one in my house has ever used the garden’ . In the same year No. 67wrote that ‘the garden looks woe-begone and attached to the houses which command it I do not feel enticed to go the distance necessary to enter their gloom. You seem to be pretty well off with £40 balance so I trust you can get on without the unwilling subscriber’. There was also just a general problem with collecting the rates, an undated letter for example writes that ‘Miss Hart encloses 30 shillings for garden rate, and is sorry to find Mr Bean has made so much trouble of this matter, he evidently forgets Miss Hart has already called and sent twice to pay it’. In consequence the committee suggested that a special official collector be appointed to collect the garden rates as a result of which Mr Phillips, an acquaintance of one of the committee members, was appointed and paid a commission on the amount collected (not dated).
W Garrard was the gardener by 1907 and was paid around £65 per annum. As well as the gardener’s wages other items of yearly expenditure included water rates to Michaelmas and also Ladyday, which in 1907 were £1 11s 6d, carting away rubbish and repairing taps. Some plants were bought from J Veitch and Sons nursery and bulbs and aucubas were often supplied by the gardener. The plants listed in the accounts and a few mentions in the minutes begin to give an idea of what the garden may have looked like. There do not appear to have been any major ‘makeovers’ or large scale replacements except for a rockery to be made at the west end of the garden in 1909. A large number of shrubs purchased in 1907 may have been a replacement of a permanent bed or border: ‘12 Spotted Leaf Aucubas, 5 Green Leaf Aucubas, 12 Golden Privets, 9 Golden Elders, 6 Flowering Currants, 2 [?Tree Ivys], 3 dozen Blue Veronica, 5 doz Blue Iris’ altogether totalling £5. Seasonal displays were also recorded in the accounts and minutes and the many red, orange and pink flowered plants were very much in keeping with the bedding schemes popular at the time with white and silver being good colours for contrasts. Bulbs for displays in the spring were bought in November or December (1906-13); bedding plants in June or July (1907-13) and rockery plants in May, June, July and/or Dec (1911-13). One record of 1907 demonstrates the scale of the bulb planting: ‘for bulbs 600 Narcissus, 200 Daffodils, 800 Crocus, 9 doz Hyacinths’, 1708 bulbs all for £4'. In addition, other plants included flowering shrubs(1909), flowering trees (1912), chrysanthemums (1918), double daffodils (1924), poplar trees (1926), tulips (1938) and antirrhinums (1949). Apart from plants, other costs such as the garden rate, wages and maintenance costs are rarely recorded well enough in the archives to show any rising costs. The committee was concerned with keeping the lawns looking good to set off the bedding displays. It was recorded in 1909-15 that for putting over lawns every year between March to May grass seed, mold (always spelt ‘mould’ in the records) and sand was bought. Occasionally, as in 1910, 300 best turf were bought for £3. Another record in 1912 states that the gardener suggested the central plot be gravelled as grass would not grow there but the committee decided it would be unsightly.
The 1916 OS map has little detail and the layout appears to have remained broadly the same as the 1896 map. There appears to be little evidence for cutbacks during WWI or WWII in the garden committee archives. In 1916 bedding plants were bought for £10, in 1917 bulbs for £4, shrubs for £3 (1916) and in 1918, 8 1/2 doz chrysanthemums for £3 and shrubs for £4 (1918). Records for WWII are sparse. Although expenditure is recorded for 1941, there is no expenditure recorded for 1942-5 although the garden rate was still being collected in 1941, 1942, 1944-5. Expenditure was recorded as usual in 1946 and included ' Sundry tips to workmen £2 12s 6d'; ' Repairs to shed and seat £3 3s 10d' and 'Fencing from the Darlington Fencing Company (possibly to replace railings after WWII) £92 10s 3d'. The garden committee archive finished in 1952 although the garden today is still run by ‘Princes Square Garden Committee’.
Two photographs dated 1961 show the layout of the garden at that time, with a possibly raised bed and central mature trees in an east-west alignment but much less planting as it is mainly laid to lawn, and only one small perimeter bed running along close to where the back of terrace exits are. The photograph shows that the original railings had been removed, presumably during WWII, and only a temporary wire fence.
The garden underwent refurbishment in the mid-late C20th when the iron railings were restored. However, by 2007 it was much neglected, there was no grass left and the garden was little used, apart from by hordes of children from nearby schools, which unfortunately contributed to the considerable wear and tear, although a segregated area was separated by chain link fence. The appointment of a new gardens committee in 2007 led to renewed interest and a renaissance in the garden over the next 4/5 years. Improvements included replanting the grass, which helped boost morale and encouraged membership. Planting included conical yews and hebe added to the rose beds, a mixed semi-evergreen hedge along the borders, and structural plants in the central bed, which reinforced the garden's semi-formal design. Kenneth Cassillo (Committee member, Director and Shareholder) was responsible for much of the garden plant and design choices, having moved to the area in 2004 and noticing the poor state of the gardens, had applied to the principal shareholder offering to volunteer to give the garden some much needed attention. For approximately 3 years, before the new committee was created, he continued to improve the gardens and as a token of their appreciation was later appointed to the newly formed committee.
The Committee continues to rely on Cassillo's expertise as a hobbyist/amateur gardener with a keen interest in organic, xeriscaping (there is no irrigation system in the gardens), and sympathetic yet forward thinking approach to steer the beautification of the gardens. He has directed and designed the recent garden improvements, researching and selecting plants for the hedge and borders, woodland area, butterfly garden and centre bed, as well as creating the compost bins. He designed a special area known as the Perfume Garden in honour of his late mother at the east end of the gardens where a circular raised bed is enclosed by a wooden arbour, adorned with climbing roses, clematis and honeysuckle. Cherry laurels wrap around the exterior of the Perfume Garden making it a more secluded and contemplative area. Other features include circular rose beds with conical yews at each end of the garden surrounded by hebe pingiafolia; 200 Geranium macrrhizum Spessart have been planted along the entire interior hedge perimeter with 2000 yellow giant daffodils; and a woodland area with several red, yellow and black stemmed cornus dogwoods, Anemone x hybrida Honorine Jobert, and several hundred woodland bulbs and rhizomes.
By autumn 2011, £2000 was allocated by the Prince's Square Gardens Committee to planting the centre bed, which had been empty and neglected for many years, which was redesigned by Cassillo with a variety of plants and planted up in November 2011 by members of the committee. Lastly, 4000 early spring bulbs, Crocus Jeanne d'Arc and Crocus vernus Queen of the Blues, were planted in honour of the Queen's Jubilee. Other features include the Wildlife Area at the east end of the garden; the Play Area at the west end surrounded by a border; and nearby the Butterfly Garden. Many other plants have been planted throughout the entire gardens, including smoke bushes, flowering cherry trees, and decorative trees.
The garden retains its mature perimeter trees, especially London planes, as well as mature trees running down the centre of the square. A perimeter stone-edged bed has mixed planting of mainly herbaceous plants and evergreen shrubs, including Laurel and Mahonia. The central area is laid to lawn with one central star-shaped raised bed containing a mature central London plane and on an east-west alignment either side of the tree are two circular stone-edged raised beds, each planted with a small conical central conifer surrounded by roses. Also on the alignment two other London plane trees remain as shown on the 1896 OS map. An area at the east end has been laid aside for a compost heap and in the south-west corner a children’s play area was installed around 2007 by Just Outdoor Toys. Nine 'Rules' remain displayed on a signboard: Dogs are allowed if they are registered with the committee but 'dog mess must be cleared up immediately'. Parties for more than ten need to be pre-approved by the committee and a donation paid but guests were by then allowed.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England London 3: North West, (1991 revised 1999), p.691.
LPGT Volunteer Research by Carrie Cowan, 2010: C Beresford, 'Garden Squares Report for English Heritage', 2002; C R Elrington (ed), 'Paddington: Bayswater', A History of the County of Middlesex Vol 9: Hampstead, Paddington (1989)m pp.204-12; C R Elrington (ed) 'Paddington: Tyburnia', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9: Hampstead, Paddington (1989), pp.190-198; H R Hitchcock, 'Early Victorian Architecture in Britain', Yale University Press, 1954; J M Robinson, 'The Wyatts, An Architectural Dynasty', Oxford University Press, 1979; ‘Wyatt family’ from ‘Wikipedia: the free encyclopaedia’. Carrie Cowan, 'The Early Garden Committees of some Westminster Squares', The London Gardener, vol 15, 2009-10, pp 89-100.
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ255809 (525525,180904)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- Prince's Square Gardens Ltd
- Site management:
- The Prince's Square Gardens Committee
- Listed structures:
- LBII: Prince's Square south side Nos. 1-20, 27 & 28; Prince's Square north side Nos. 38-41, 47-65 and 66-71
- 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:
Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and is subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.