The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 9 Squares

Belgravia, Eaton, Ebury and Eccleston Squares

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There is nothing of historical interest in the Squares of Belgravia, The ground covered by Belgrave Square was known as Five Fields, which were so swampy that no one had attempted to build on them. It was the celebrated builder, Thomas Cubitt, who in 1825 was able by draining, and removing clay, which he used for bricks, to reach a solid foundation, and in a few years had built Belgrave and Eaton Squares and the streets adjoining. The site of the centre of Belgrave Square was then a market-garden. Ebury Square, the garden of which is open to the public, and tastefully laid out, was built about 1820. The farm on that spot, which in 1676 came to the Grosvenor family, was a farm of 430 acres in Queen Elizabeth's time, and is mentioned as early as 1307, when Edward I. gave John de Benstede permission to fortify it. There was only one road across the swampy ground from St. James's to Chelsea, and that was the King's Road, which followed the line of the centre of Eaton Square. There were, however, numerous footpaths, infested by footpads and robbers at night, and bright with wild flowers and scented by briar roses by day. There is a great sameness among all the squares between Vauxhall Bridge and the Pimlico Road. Of this latter original-sounding name there seems no satisfactory explanation. The space between Warwick Street and the river, was in old times occupied by the Manor House of Neyte, and in later days by nurseries and a tea garden, known as the Neat House. The ground near Eccleston Square was an osier bed. The whole surface was raised by Cubitt, with soil from St. Katherine's Docks in 1827, and the houses built, and square gardens laid out; Eccleston in 1835, Warwick 1843, St. George's 1850, and so on until the whole was covered. The gardens are all in the same style, and have no horticultural interest. The garden in front of Cadogan Place varied most from the usual pattern, having been designed by Repton. "Instead of raising the surface to the level of the street, as had usually been the custom, by bringing earth from a distance," he "recommended a valley to be formed through its whole length, with other lesser valleys flowing from it, and hills to be raised by the ground so taken from the valleys." The original intention was to bring the overflow of the Serpentine down Repton's valley, but this was never done, and the gardens now only show the variation of level in one part. There is a good assortment of trees, and a group of mulberries which bear fruit every year.