London Squares and Open Spaces

London is a uniquely green city. An aerial view of the metropolis reveals an extraordinary quilt of open spaces:

  • great inner city parks
  • outer London woodlands
  • private gardens large and small
  • formal squares
  • sports fields
  • cemeteries
  • tiny corners of grass, trees and flowers
Cadogan Place Square image for London Squares and Open Spaces web page

Cadogan Place Square

London's green spaces are an integral part of the home, the workplace and playground for one of the world's greatest historic cities. Together with its waterways, and varied and sophisticated network of streets, London presents a diverse and ever-changing urban environment that is unequalled elsewhere in the world. English Heritage is a partner in the All London Green Grid, a strategic framework for creating, improving, managing and maintaining high quality Green Infrastructure.

click here to download 'A Campaign for London Squares' (c) English Heritage

A Campaign for London Squares

The London square is one of the capital's greatest green assets and yet often the most taken for granted. John Ruskin wrote, 'The measure of a city's greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares.'

With over 600 squares, these urban green spaces provide a crucial link between private domestic gardens and large urban parks. But many are neglected, undervalued, hidden or simply forgotten. These oases provide crucial wildlife havens, safe play spaces, tranquil gardens and the setting for thousands of listed buildings. Although over 400 are protected by the London Squares Preservation Act of 1931, a unique piece of legislation designed to prevent their loss to development, many are uncared for and actually detract from their surroundings.

We are working in partnership to restore that quality throughout the capital.

English Heritage is working  to promote the importance of the urban garden square.

Our brochure, A Campaign for London Squares sets out our mission to encourage investment in their care and management, to raise their profile and to ensure their conservation.  We can offer technical advice on planting, design, garden archaeology, suitable path surfaces, railing repair or reinstatement. We also advise on ways to reduce vandalism.

image of Postman's Park for London Squares and Open Spaces web page

Postman's Park

Restoration Projects

The last ten years has seen some impressive improvement projects to some of London's most important squares.

The restoration of Russell Square, by Camden Council with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, included the redevelopment of the cafe, the replacement of the perimeter planting, the provision of new furniture and most notably the reinstatement of the perimeter railings, which were removed during the Second World War.

Brunswick and Bloomsbury Squares have also been restored. Both are included on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest and both were awarded grants. The works included new planting, path repairs, new furniture and at Brunswick Square, the reinstatement of the impressive perimeter railings and gates. The works complement the landscape works recently completed at the adjoining Coram's Fields to restore elements of the historic landscape and provide new play facilities.

The 2009 refurbishment of Talbot Square Gardens, off Sussex Gardens in Paddington is another example.

image of Warwick for London Squares and Open Spaces web page

Warwick Square

Railings, Gates and Iron Work

Historic Scotland produced a leaflet on The Maintenance and Care of Iron Gates and Railings. There is also a chapter by Edward Diestelkamp on the use of iron in public parks in Jan Woudstra and Ken Fieldhouse (eds) 2000 ‘The Regeneration of Public Parks’ The Garden History Society, Landscape Design Trust and E&FN Spon. Further advice on commissioning specialist iron work repairs is available from the National Heritage Ironwork Group.