(Photo: Sarah Jackson)
This award-winning Victorian garden was laid out as part of the Edwardes Estate in the 1870s, and was well managed with an almost full-time gardener until 1939. In WW2 the handsome cast-iron railings were taken away and five huge emergency water tanks filled the southern half of the garden.
By the early 1970s the garden had become overgrown, used as a dump and surrounded by green wire netting. In the mid-1970s the newly formed residents' association brought the garden under the provisions of the 1851 Kensington Improvement Act. Landscape gardener and resident Christopher Fair designed the present layout. The children's play area was added in 1980.
The established London plane trees have now grown to dominate the square. One on the south side was blown down in the 1987 gale. The garden has been maintained and improved over the past 30 years, and in the past has won first prize in the Brighter Kensington & Chelsea Scheme competition.
We are lucky to have Anna Surdacka as our Head Gardener, with her colleagues from Charles Wood Landscape Design, to care for the garden. Anna has worked in the garden for five years and we benefit from her enormous knowledge and genuine care for the Square, not to mention her hard work.
The garden hosts many neighbourhood social events, including a very popular annual summer barbecue, a Christmas-tree-lighting party and soirées musicales
in spring and summer.
The rather grand stucco-fronted terraces in the late Italianate style on three sides of the square are complemented by the grade II*-listed Flemish-style red-brick houses on the south side. In the early 1970s part of the square was in danger of being torn down and replaced with high-density housing, but was instead designated a conservation area. The last 20 years have seen the conversion of the remaining hotels into high-quality flats.
Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet, spent her early years at no. 23 and ran dancing classes in the first-floor ballroom. Choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton also lived in the square as a young man at around the same time. Mr Frank Gielgud lived at no. 36, where his son, actor Sir John Gielgud, was very possibly conceived before the family moved in 1904. In 1963 no. 21 became the home of the National Poetry Society and most of the famous poets of the day read their works in the salon.