London Squares and Open Spaces

Fitzroy Square, London - (c) English Heritage & Rowan Blaik London is a uniquely green city. An aerial view of the metropolis reveals an extraordinary quilt of open spaces - great inner city parks, outer London woodlands, private gardens large and small, formal squares, sports fields, cemeteries, tiny corners of grass, trees and flowers.

London's green patchwork is an integral part of the home, the workplace and playground of one of the world's greatest historic cities.

Together with its waterways and varied and sophisticated network of streetscape, London presents a diverse and ever-changing urban environment that is unequalled elsewhere in the world.

With over 600 squares, these urban green spaces provide a crucial link between private domestic gardens and large urban parks.

For more information on the role of English Heritage in the London region, including online copies of its publication Changing London and details of properties to visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/london.

The London square is one of the capital's greatest green assets and yet often the most taken for granted. With over 600 squares, these urban green spaces provide a crucial link between private domestic gardens and large urban parks. But many are neglected, undervalued, hidden or simply forgotten. These oases provide crucial wild life havens, safe play spaces, tranquil gardens and the setting for thousands of listed buildings. Although over 400 are protected by the London Squares Preservation Act of 1931, a unique piece of legislation designed to prevent their loss to development, many are uncared for and actually detract from their surroundings.

click here to download 'A Campaign for London Squares' (c) English Heritage English Heritage is working hard to promote the importance of the urban garden square. Our brochure, A Campaign for London Squares (pdf, 1.6MB), sets out our mission to encourage investment in their care and management, to raise their profile and to ensure their conservation. The campaign has created great interest. Technical advice has been offered to many garden managers on planting, design, garden archaeology, suitable path surfaces, railing repair or reinstatement. We also advise on ways to reduce vandalism.

The last few years has seen some impressive improvement projects to some of London's most important squares. The restoration of Russell Square, by Camden Council with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, included the redevelopment of the cafe, the replacement of the perimeter planting, the provision of new furniture and most notably the reinstatement of the perimeter railings, which were removed during the Second World War.

Many London squares were stripped of their historic railings in 1941 and are still enclosed by ugly chain link fencing. The Crown Estate's superb reinstatement of the railings to Park Square East and West, plus the new gates to Regent's Park (following the original designs), has transformed one of London's greatest architectural set-pieces.

Most recently has seen the completion of works to restore Brunswick and Bloomsbury Squares. Both are included within the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest and both have been awarded grants. The works included new planting, path repairs, new furniture and at Brunswick Square, the reinstatement of the impressive perimeter railings and gates. The works complement the landscape works recently completed at the adjoining Coram's Fields to restore elements of the historic landscape and provide new play facilities.

John Ruskin wrote, 'The measure of a city's greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares.' We are working in partnership to restore that quality throughout the capital.

A Campaign for London Squares (product code XH 20153) can be obtained from English Heritage Customer Services on +44 (0) 870 333 1181 or view or print the entire document on-line using Adobe Acrobat.

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