The very first London Garden Square Day took place in 1998, with 43 gardens taking part. Many of these are still taking part in Open Garden Squares Weekend – see the list.
The aims of the event were to draw attention to the contribution that the participating green spaces made to the capital and the importance attached to their conservation. The day also provided in particular an opportunity to explore those private and more secret gardens which were not generally accessible to the public and to join in the community events taking place.
Caroline Aldiss, a resident of Collingham Gardens at the time, founded the event in 1998-9 with the support of the London Parks and Gardens Trust and English Heritage. Caroline 'imagined a day when all the gardens could be open to the public and when local communities could perhaps celebrate the day with fêtes and fairs'.
She recalls that it was hard work persuading garden committees to take part. They were naturally cautious of the concept, though letters of support from Prince Charles and central London MPs Alan Clark and Peter Brooke, among others, certainly helped to persuade them. Caroline won the Countess of Athlone Environment Award and the New Year's Day Roll of Honour Award in 1998 for her efforts.
Once the project had gained acceptance, Caroline enlisted the help of London Parks and Gardens Trust to continue organising the event. She still takes an active interest in its welfare.
There was much discussion whether 7 June was the optimum date and there has been further discussion since whether the second weekend in June is the best one, especially when the month begins on a weekend.
The following gardens took part in 1998. Many of these still take part today.