London Squares – cuttings from the past

Drinking fountain, Byranston Square 1863Westminster Archives resources range from parish records to local maps, but why not come and take a look at one of the less frequently utilised resources – our collection of newspaper cuttings? Although we hold local newspapers in our collection, the newspaper cuttings collected and collated over the years are a quick and easy way to discover historic events, changes to streets and the ongoing history of buildings in an area. Perhaps there is a historic event that you remember which is detailed in our collection?

Open Garden Squares is coming up this weekend (13-14 June) so I took a look at some of the newspaper cuttings for those in our area: Bryanston Square, Montagu Square, Belgrave Square and Eaton Square. Below are some of the articles I found – just a few of the fascinating historic articles on the garden squares of the City of Westminster.

Bryanston Square

This drinking fountain pictured above was erected at the south end of Bryanston Square in 1863, paying tribute to William Pitt Byrne (1806-1861). Byrne was the editor of the Morning Post. The fountain still exists and is now a Grade II listed monument. Unfortunately, during the years following its construction it was allowed to run dry. The Evening Standard noted this in 1974:

Bryanston Square 1974, newspaper cutting from Evening Standard


Montagu Square

Quirky tales can often be found in our cuttings. Here is Yoko Ono in 1990 reliving her time at Montagu Square, where she shared a flat with John Lennon.

Montagu Square 1990, newspaper cutting from Evening Standard

In 1982 the members of the Montagu Square Garden Trust observed resident Reginald Heaney’s 70th birthday with a watercolour of the square and garden. If you couldn’t be outside to enjoy the garden, looking at a lovely painting instead might do.

Montagu Square 1982 - watercolour for resident Reginald Heaney’s 70th birthday


Belgrave Sqaure

In 1979 the annual ‘extravaganza’ at Belgrave Square took place; a fair with top fashion designers, music and even a relay jog. The main event, the traditional Belgrave Beano, was an exuberant evening event where socialising amid dancing, food and drink was a highlight of the year.

Belgrave Square 1979, newspaper cutting from Country Life

Look out for signed architecture on the houses alongside the 4.5 acre garden at Belgrave Square. An article in the Times (1973) gave instructions on locating the Victorian architects who were proud enough of their work to inscribe their names in various places on the buildings. Can you spot George Basevi Junior’s name or Philip Hardwick’s?

Belgrave Square 1973, newspaper cutting from The Times


Eaton Square

Neville Chamberlain, who was prime minister from 1869-1940, and actress Vivien Leigh were each given a blue plaque at Eaton Square. Vivien Leigh lived at number 54 Eaton Square from 1913 to 1967 whilst Chamberlain occupied number 37 from 1923-1935. Both these famous past residences of Eaton Square and their new plaques were awarded note in our newspaper cuttings.

During the post war years, a time when Vivien Leigh was a resident of Eaton Square, the garden would have looked like this:

Eaton Square 1952, image property of Westminster City Archives

Our newspaper cuttings can be searched with a visit to our Archives Search Room. Visit our periodicals website, WULOP, to see a list of the local newspapers we hold in our collection.

Quiet London by Siobhan WallInterested in other outdoor areas of London? Quiet London by Siobhan Wall gives an excellent guide to the less frequently trodden areas of London, including some captivating hidden gardens, most of which are open throughout the year.

[Kimberly]

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