Inventory Site Record

St John's Lodge Gardens * (Westminster)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

This is the formal garden to St John's Lodge, the first villa to be built in John Nash's Regent's Park. It remained in private hands until 1916, and past owners included Lord Wellesley, Sir Isaac Goldsmid and the Marquesses of Bute. During this time various alterations were made to the house and the grounds were extended in 1836 and 1884. In 1892 a new garden 'fit for meditation' was designed for the 3rd Marquess of Bute with formal areas, fountain pond, Doric temple, stone portico and partly sunken chapel. The garden features reflected Arts and Crafts ideas and the revival of interest in the classical. In 1916 part of the garden area was taken back into Regent's Park, and the house was put to a number of uses but is now back in private ownership. The garden has been open to the public since 1928 and in 1994 it was renovated to reflect the 1890s layout.

Practical Information
Site location:
Inner Circle, Regent's Park
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
7am - dusk
Special conditions:
Dogs and games not permitted
Public transport:
Tube: Baker Street (Bakerloo, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee), Great Portland Street (Circle, Hammersmith & City). Bus:2,13,18,27,30,74,82,113,139,189,274,453,C2
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

The Holme and St John's Lodge are the only two villas within The Regent's Park that remain from John Nash's original conception for what was called the 'jewel in the crown'. Previously known as Marylebone Park it formed part of the royal hunting chase appropriated by Henry VIII in 1538 and remained so until 1646, and later used as farmland. At the end of the Civil War it had been sold by Cromwell to John Spencer but reverted to the Crown at the Restoration and was subsequently leased to various noblemen, finally the Duke of Portland, whose lease was due to revert to the Crown in 1811. John Fordyce, appointed Surveyor General of His Majesty's Land Revenue in 1794 was authorised to produce a plan for the area of Marylebone Park and various architects competed for the tender. On Fordyce's death the offices of Land Revenue were combined with those of Woods and Forests and the architects of the two departments were asked to produce plans. John Nash (1752-1835), who was official architect to the Commission of Woods and Forest and a friend of the Prince Regent, designed the layout of the park as it is today as part of his grand plan for London that was approved by the Treasury in October 1811. His plan had an avenue stretching from Marylebone via Portland Place and Regent Street to Carlton House Terrace and Gardens (q.v.), and included the 400-acre park was to be surrounded by palatial terraces and villas.

St John's Lodge was built in 1817-19 by architect John Raffield for Charles Augustus Tulk, MP and was the first to be built in Regent's Park. A plan of 1826 shows the house encircled by trees and shrubs with a curving drive off Inner Circle with a turning circle in front of the house. Additions were made to the house in 1831-2 by Decimus Burton for Lord Wellesley. From 1833 Sir Isaac Goldsmid, the first Jewish Baronet, lived at St John's Lodge, which passed to his son Sir Francis Goldsmid and then his widow, who sold the property in 1888. During this time various alterations were made to the house and the grounds were extended in 1836 and 1884. A conservatory was added to the north side of the house in 1841 attributed to David Mocatta, since removed, and in 1844 Ambrose Poynter and Charles Barry made other improvements and extensions. In 1847 Barry enlarged the house, extending the entrance lodge.

The lease was sold to the 3rd Marquess of Bute in 1888 and the Bute family lived here until 1916. Robert Weir Schultz made further alterations to the house and designed a new garden 'fit for meditation' for the 3rd Marquess in 1892. A watercolour by J Joass showing an aerial perspective of the garden was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898. At that time the garden extended east along a wide grass path bounded with scalloped yew hedges in which statues were to be placed, but never were. Reached by 3 wide stone steps was a circular fountain pond surrounded by yew with a statue of St John the Baptist in pewter by Goscombe John. Further east, a smaller oval garden was reached through a stone portico in the form of a serlian window frame, possibly inspired by one at Chiswick House (q.v.), a former residence of the Marquess. This garden was encircled with espaliered lime trees and may once have been a tennis lawn; it had rustic seats, a dovecote, rose garden and vegetable garden. The garden became progressively informal as it moved away from the house, and a long straight path then led west back to the house. Behind the east-west hedge was a small Doric temple, its site now in the private part of the garden. On the west side of the lawn was a sundial, and the entire garden was surrounded by oak pales.

In 1899 Weir Schultz built a partly sunken chapel near the lake to the north-east but this was demolished in 1916, just before the end of the Bute lease. The reason the family did not extend its lease was because in 1916 5.5 acres to the north and west of the house were taken back into Regent's Park and surrounded by railings, and the chapel would have been cut off from the house. Further land to the east was incorporated into the Park nursery that had become established at this end of the garden, and drastic tree surgery was carried out to redress the less manicured tree canopy preferred by the Bute family. In 1916 St John's Lodge was converted for the rehabilitation of wounded and blind soldiers and workshops were built on part of the gardens. In 1920 RNIB leased the property on behalf of St Dunstan's Institute for the Blind, and from 1921-37 it was the Institute's headquarters, and a bungalow was built to the east of the gate lodge.

The gardens opened to the public in 1928, following a Cabinet decision that more land in Regent's Park should be publicly accessible. A statue of Hylas and the Nymph by Henry Peagram, 1933, was sited in the middle of the pond and in 1934 the portico and nymphaeum were dismantled after protestations by Goscombe John. From 1937 the house was leased to London University; between 1937-59 it housed the Institute of Archaeology, then Bedford College until 1983. A development company Messila House occupied the house from 1987-1994, since when it has been leased to the Sultan of Brunei and the Kuwaiti Royal Family. The garden was renovated in 1994 by Colvin & Moggeridge to reflect the Weir Schultz plan and honour the 3rd Marquess of Bute. A new entrance walk was created to the east of the gatehouse and bungalow, with double gates to give privacy to house, which was renovated and a new lease taken out by a private individual. A metal arbour reflecting the original stone portico, and a wooden covered seat were created along with the placement of a number of new statues and urns, which include Shepherdess by C L Hartwell RA for Gertrude and Bertie Weaver 1931, The Awakening by Wuts Safardiar commemorating Anne Lydia Evans (1929-99). The east-west scalloped hedge was replanted in yew but the 1920s flower beds were renewed after public consultation, a variation from the original Weir Schultz plan. New high-backed wooden benches were also commissioned,

Sources consulted:

Country Life, 11 July 1968, 4 September 1986, 4 June 1987; Gavin Stamp 'Robert Weir Schultz, Architect, and his work for the Marquesses of Bute', (Mount Stuart, 1981); Kristina Taylor and Robert Peel, 'Landscapes of the Bute Family' (Phillimore, 2008); Crown Estates file boxes relating to St John's Lodge, 1819-2007, Public Records Office; E C Samuel, 'Villas in Regent's Park' (Marylebone Society, 1959); Ann Saunders, 'Regent's Park Villas' (Bedford College, 1981); David Ottewill, 'The Edwardian Garden' (New Haven & London, 1989); Colvin & Moggeridge, 'Historical Report on the Landscape at St John's Lodge' (Royal Parks Office, Inner Circle, 1983).

LPGT Volunteer Research by Kristina Taylor, 2007

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ282828 (528222,182794)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Royal Parks Agency
Site management:
Royal Parks Agency
1817; 1831-2; 1846; 1893; 1993-5
1831-2 Decimus Burton; 1846 Charles Barry; 1892/3: Robert Weir Schultz; 1993-5 Colvin & Moggeridge
Listed structures:
LBII*: St John's Lodge, gate piers by Barry c1846, gate lodge c1818-9
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Yes (within Regent's Park)
NHLE grade:
Grade I
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:
Regent's Park
Tree Preservation Order:
To be checked
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
To be checked
Other LA designation:

St John's Lodge Gardens *

St John's Lodge Gardens - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 22/09/20 14:05

Click a photo to enlarge.

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