The Garden Guide

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

Brompton Square and Kensington Square

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Further west again, the old hamlet of Brompton has small, quiet squares of its own. The trees of Brompton Square, that quiet cul-de-sac, and the way through with a nice row of trees to Holy Trinity Church (built in 1829), with Cottage Place running parallel with it, is rather unlike any other corner of London. Before it was built over Brompton was famous for its gardens-first that of London and Wise, in the reign of William III. and Anne, and then that of William Curtis, the editor of the Botanical Magazine. A guide-book of 1792, describes Brompton as "a populous hamlet of Kensington, adjoining Knightsbridge, remarkable for the salubrity of its air. This place was the residence of Oliver Cromwell." Kensington Square is older than any of the Brompton Squares, having been begun in James II.'s reign, and completed after William III. was living in Kensington Palace. From the first it was very fashionable, and has many celebrated names connected with it-Addison, Talleyrand, Archbishop Herring, John Stuart Mill, and many others. The weeping ash trees and circular beds give the gardens a character of their own. Edwardes differs from all other London Squares. The small houses and large square garden are said by Leigh Hunt, who lived there at one time, to have been laid out to suit the taste of French refugees, who it was thought might take up their quarters there. The small houses were to suit their empty pockets, and the large garden their taste for a sociable out-of-door life. Loudon was an admirer of the design of the garden, which he says was made by Aiglio, an eminent landscape painter, in 1819. The arrangement is quite distinct from other squares-small paths, partly hidden by groups of bushes and larger trees, all round the edge, and from them twisting walks diverge towards the centre. At their meeting-point now stands a shell from the battle of Alma. The Square with its nice trees, standard hollies, and even a few conifers and carefully-planted beds, is further original in possessing a beadle. This gentleman, who lives in a delightful little house, with a portico in which the visitors to the Square can shelter from the rain, looks most imposing in his uniform and gold-braided hat, and adds greatly to the old-world appearance of the place. It is sad to think the leases all fall in within the next few years, and this quaint personage and vast garden (it is 3.25 acres) and funny little houses may all disappear from London.