Squares in London

St. James's Square, c. 1722
Fitzroy Square

Squares have long been a feature of London.

A few, such as Trafalgar Square, were built as public open spaces, like the squares found in many cities, known as a plaza, piazza, platz, etc. Most, however, were garden squares, originally built as private communal gardens for use by the inhabitants of the surrounding houses. This type of space is most prevalent in central London, but squares are also found in the suburbs. Some of these gardens are now open to the public, while others, for example around Notting Hill, are still fenced and private.

Name and shape

"Square" is a generic term for these urban open spaces; some are not actually square, or even rectangular. One reason for this is the use of a local nickname for the street, park or garden in question. Another is that some older squares were irregularly shaped to begin with, or lost their original layout due to the city's many transformations, not least following the Great Fire of London and The Blitz.

Each London Borough has rules which have been drawn up prevent inappropriate street names being used to designate new developments or to rename existing features — the general requirement for new squares in London is that they be rectangular and be to some extent open.[1] Billiter Square, EC3 and Millennium Square, SE1 are examples of squares which do not satisfy these guidelines.

Some are entirely paved (Granary Square), while others are almost completely grass and trees (Russell Square). Some have the word "square" in their name, while others do not. Increasingly, spaces are being constructed that are legally private, although in practice open to the public (Paternoster Square). At the other extreme, London's growth over the centuries has encompassed several village greens such as Newington Green, which serve as council-run open spaces in the midst of dense housing. This category of urban green space then begins to shade in to the parks for which London is justly famous.


The making of residential squares fell into decline in the early twentieth century, one of the last notable such squares having been designed by Edwin Lutyens for Hampstead Garden Suburb. Numerous squares were in danger of being used as building sites. This was banned by the London Squares Act of 1931.[2] But in the last quarter of the twentieth century a fashion for making office squares developed. This trend was led by the Broadgate development. The new London Square development indicates a minor revival in the development of new wholly residential squares. However, as a mixed-use focal area squares have become a resurgent planning design, this is reflected for instance by Times Square, Sutton or Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

Since 1998, numerous squares and other private gardens have been open to the paying public due to an initiative by Caroline Aldiss. This is called the "London open Garden Square Weekend" and takes place on the second weekend in June.[3] The event is organised by the London Parks and Garden Trust and run mainly by volunteers. In 2013, more than 200 gardens take place. Among others, the Garden of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, Eaton Square and the Gardens of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs. Other events are organised to coincide with this weekend, for example, the "World Archaeology Festival" run by the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, in Gordon Square.[4]

The parks can be split into garden squares and other squares.

Notable garden squares

Squares as landmarks

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List of Greater London squares

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City (EC)
City (WC)
Near central
north and northwest
Near central
west and southwest
Near central
East — within London postal districts
Further east — still within Greater London
Further west — still within Greater London
Further southwest
Further southeast
Further north
Further south
Further northwest

See also


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