The gardens were laid out in 1799; the largest of the London plane trees, acknowledged as one of the Great Trees of London, was probably planted at that time. The current layout follows the original simple design, thought to be by John Burton, the developer. There is a small bed of medicinal plants, near the UCL School of Pharmacy.
Literary associations are strong, from Jane Austen’s Emma to JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. The noticeboards record many famous residents, including the Bloomsbury set. Sadly, the original houses surrounding the square have been replaced by public buildings, including the absorbing Foundling Museum.