How does your gar­den grow?

Eleanor Doughty hops from one Lon­don oa­sis to an­other, as­sess­ing gar­den squares old and new

Country Life Every Week - - Property News - Edited by An­nun­ci­ata Wal­ton

MAKE a turn off some of the cap­i­tal’s busiest streets and, if you’re lucky, you may hap­pen upon a gar­den square, an idyll in cen­tral Lon­don. They’re a pro­tected species, ac­ces­si­ble only with a key and only a few are handed out. Should you find your­self locked in one, it can be dif­fi­cult to es­cape—even though Ju­lia Roberts pulls it off in Not­ting Hill, climb­ing the rail­ings is a far from la­dy­like op­tion.

One of Lon­don’s defin­ing fea­tures, the gar­den square was built for liv­ing in, de­spite its ex­clu­siv­ity. As de­vel­op­ments in the city make our green spa­ces ever smaller, liv­ing on a square is a smart de­ci­sion. So im­por­tant are they that, in 1931, the Lon­don Squares Preser­va­tion Act was in­tro­duced to pro­tect more than 400 from be­ing built over.

Luck­ily, some of the city’s most fa­mous squares are now pub­lic. Grosvenor Square, founded in about 1721, is cur­rently home to the Amer­i­can Em­bassy, the me­dia flock to Soho Square for af­ter-work drinks and, on Berke­ley Square, you can watch Lam­borgh­i­nis idly prom­e­nade. In a few weeks’ time, even more of these idylls will be ac­ces­si­ble: June 17–18 is Open Gar­den Squares Week­end, dur­ing which more than 230 pri­vate and lit­tle­known ex­am­ples will be open for pub­lic view­ing (www.open­squares.org).

The prop­er­ties that sur­round these de­sir­able squares can com­mand eye-wa­ter­ing prices. On Con­naught Square in Bayswa­ter W2, a four-bed­room Grade Ii-listed town house is on the mar­ket for £6.5 mil­lion with Carter Jonas (020–3131 4385); on Ea­ton Square in Bel­gravia SW1, Strutt & Parker (020–7235 9959) are ask­ing £16.95 mil­lion for a two-bed­room first-floor ‘tro­phy flat’; and on South Ed­wardes Square in Kens­ing­ton W8, Thomas van Strauben­zee, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of prime prop­erty agency Van­han (020–3588 3311), is sell­ing a large lat­eral prop­erty for £23 mil­lion.

Should your bud­get stretch this far, life on a gar­den square of­fers sev­eral bonuses. The first is lo­ca­tion: they are, for the most part, in Lon­don’s most de­sir­able ar­eas. Ad­di­tion­ally, says Mr van Strauben­zee, there’s a good sense of com­mu­nity. ‘They’re quite so­cial—peo­ple can en­joy bar­be­cues in the summer, some al­low dogs, some have ten­nis courts. It’s an added bonus to have a key to a gar­den square— they’re big­ger than your pri­vate gar­den and more pri­vate than a pub­lic park.’ For par­ents, there’s also a com­fort in know­ing you can al­low your chil­dren out to play, all within safe view of the kitchen win­dow. In­creas­ingly, mod­ern de­vel­op­ers are choos­ing the gar­den square as a re­li­able res­i­den­tial tem­plate. In Earl’s Court SW6, Lil­lie Square (020–7381 9800), with a gar­den by Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal-win­ning Andy Stur­geon, has re­cently wel­comed its first res­i­dents. At Lin­coln’s Inn Fields, Lon­don’s largest res­i­den­tial square, new de­vel­op­ment Lin­coln Square (020–7420 3054) will com­plete its first phase next year, of­fer­ing res­i­dents views of the Royal Courts of Jus­tice. In Bayswa­ter, W2, the build­ing that once housed the Hem­pel Ho­tel has been re­placed by Hem­pel Gar­dens, a col­lec­tion of 18 lux­ury apart­ments off Craven Hill Gar­dens (www.the­hempel­col­lec­tion.com). And, last summer, around the cor­ner on Kens­ing­ton Gar­den Square, Gar­den House (020– 7408 5155) was launched, a col­lec­tion of 58 apart­ments in a stucco-fronted Vic­to­rian man­sion build­ing with a twoacre gar­den. These de­vel­op­ments sug­gest that the pop­u­lar­ity of the gar­den square has not yet waned. Roarie Scaris­brick, a buy­ing agent with Prop­erty Vi­sion (020–7808 8998) agrees: ‘There are few bet­ter ways of liv­ing in Lon­don than be­ing on a gar­den square. How amaz­ing to live right in the mid­dle of a huge city, yet look out onto the man­i­cured gar­dens and leafy plane trees.’ Mr van Strauben­zee names South Ed­wardes Square in W8 as his favourite. Mr Scaris­brick opts for Lad­broke Square in Not­ting Hill, W11. ‘How­ever, be­ware the rules,’ he cau­tions. ‘Some are pretty ar­chaic, al­most un­changed from Vic­to­rian days. One com­mu­nal gar­den in Not­ting Hill still has a no­tice pre­vent­ing the use of tri­cy­cles and cat­a­pults.’

‘One of Lon­don’s defin­ing fea­tures, the gar­den square was built for liv­ing in’

Green glory: gar­den squares of­fer a small slice of coun­try­side in cen­tral Lon­don

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