Bedford Square garden – potted history.
It is remarkable to think that what became Bedford Square went from an outlying rural site to one of the most sought after addresses in London in barely five years.
The four flanks of residential properties were built between 1775 and 1780 and its oval garden laid out simultaneously as an adornment to the surrounding houses. Little is known of the planting at this initial stage and it is possible that the garden was simply a green space devoid of significant plants.
Trees and shrubs were subsequently introduced and, by the mid nineteenth century paintings hint at an outer ring of trees showing the London Plane’s familiar habit.
Nevertheless, evidence from a later Ordnance Survey map of 1871 confuses the issue somewhat. Suggesting a more picturesque appearance, here criss-cross paths bisect the garden and Pines, rather than London Planes, are the dominant tree species. The pavilion now at the west end was also located in the centre of the garden.
By the close of the nineteenth century though, the layout with which we are now familiar had been introduced. A map from 1894 shows the inner lawn dotted with trees and ringed by a perimeter path. Though some of the trees shown are no longer standing, it can be assumed from their position, that the rest are those which tower overhead today.
Did you know? London Plane trees (Platanus × hispanica) are a hybrid of the species P. orientalis and P. occidentalis, which are native to Europe and Asia, and the United Sates respectively. These trees are highly resistant to pollution making them the perfect choice for busy urban streets and account for 14% of all trees growing in the City of London. The Plane trees in Bedford Square are all examples of the hybrid, with the exception of one near the north gate. This is a P. Orientalis, identifiable by its somewhat larger stature and more pointed leaves.
‘A little history of Bedford Square’ Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Yalebooksblog.co.uk. July 2012