The Garden Guide

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

Manchester Square and Portman Square

Previous - Next

Manchester Square is of later date. It was an open space approached by shady lanes from Cavendish Square for some fifty years after that was built. The houses in Manchester Square were not begun till 1776-some ten years after the commencement of Portman Square. This district was all very semi-rural and unfinished until much later. Southey, in a letter, writes of Portman Square as "on the outskirts of the town," and approached "on one side by a road, unlit, unpaved, and inaccessible by carriages." The large corner house, now occupied by Lord Portman, was built for Mrs. Montagu, "Queen of the Blue Stockings," and during her time "Montagu House" was the salon to which the literary celebrities of the day flocked. When Mrs. Montagu moved there from Hill Street she wrote to a friend, "My health has not been interrupted by the bad weather we have had; I believe Portman Square is the Montpellier of England." In the centre of the Square garden was planted a "wilderness," after the fashion of the day, and early in the nineteenth century, when the Turkish Ambassador resided in the Square, he erected a kiosk in this "wilderness," where he used to smoke and imagine himself in a perfumed garden of the East. It is still one of the best kept-up of the squares.