The History of the London Square

Squares are one of the defining features of London. Like other European cities, London has its grand civic spaces – the likes of the Mall, Whitehall, Trtafgalgar Square, but no other city has developed the garden square in quite the same way. 

SO…where did the idea for a square come from and how did they start…

From the lawyers of Lincolns Inn protecting the neighbouring fields from building development  and the the Earls of Bedford laying out Covent Garden in the early 17thc,  to the great aristocrat’s leasing their suburban fields to speculative builders, and spreading the city out in every direction, the square has transformed London’s residential architecture.  

We tend to think of squares as well planted green spaces full of trees but the earliest ones were rubbish dumps, or just open gravelled areas. Architectural unity and well-planted and designed gardens are later innovations.  More recently wartime damage, underground car parks and unsympathetic redevelopment schemes have often drastically altered their appearance but somehow the “spirit” of the square lives on. New ones are being built and older ones restored, although others are still under threat and need our help and protection. 

This talk looks at the rise of the square, and at the threats and challenges they have faced over the past 400 years and at ideas for their future.