(Photo: © Steffie Shields)
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 an overgrown area, 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 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.
Since last year the north-east corner of the garden has been cut back and replanted with the help and guidance of Charles Wood and Eyre Sykes. New roses and fruit trees have been planted to remember former residents of the square and we look forward to the first flowering of the Diamond Jubilee Rose, planted to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The children's play area was added in 1980. The garden hosts many neighbourhood social events, including a very popular annual summer BBQ, 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.