Marylebone is one of my favourite parts of London as it has magically retained a village type atmosphere. Although just a short walk from Oxford Street it's less busy and the roads in and round Marylebone High Street and up and coming Chiltern Street are full of fabulous, small and independent shops and delightful cafes, pubs and restaurants. Marylebone also has some beautiful gardens which form the centrepieces to its grand squares. They are known as Key Gardens as they are private, gated gardens which are usually only open to residents or businesses located in the square who have access via their own key or key fob. However these charming gardens are occassionally open to the public, such as during Open Garden Squares weekend, and are worth exploring.
Before I continue I should give a disclaimer, I am not a horticulturalist, just someone who loves exploring London's parks and gardens and there's nothing more fascinating for me than visiting somewhere that isn't normally open to the general public.
Marylebone was originally a small village surrounded by open countryside until the area was developed in the 1700s. Portman Square is one of the largest squares in London and is the centrepiece of the Portman Estate. Its private garden is large and surprisingly quiet given its close proximity to Oxford Street.
Portman Square Garden
The garden was originally laid out in the 1780s as a wilderness by Nathaniel and Henry Hewitt but the original design has not survived. Today there are lawns, winding path, a shelter, tennis court and children’s play area.
As well as during Open Garden Squares weekend these large, attractive private gardens are open to the public during the spring and summer months for the monthly Food Market when a vast array of delicious world cuisines are on offer. Also look out for Summer in the Square which offers a series of great free events. All theses events are organised by the Baker Street Quarter Partnership
If you visit it's worth looking out for Home House on the north of the square. Today an exclusive private members' club, so sorry you won't be able to go inside. It was originally built for the Countess of Home and despite its rather plain exterior inside it resembles a jewel box and is reputedly the best Robert Adam interior in London.
Manchester Square Garden lies directly behind Selfridges and are considerably smaller than its Portman neighbour, but for me its intimacy only adds to its charm. The square retains most of its original Georgian terrace housing and its private garden lie at its heart.
Manchester Square Garden
The garden consists of a central lawn with London Plane and lime trees and the winding paths leading to a delightful seating area. The garden is ecologically friendly, avoiding the use of chemicals by using homemade compost made from leaves and grass clippings.
Manchester Square is best known for as being the home of the Wallace Collection. This charming, free museum is open daily and if you haven’t been I would encourage you to visit as soon as possible, as this is the best way to experience some marvellous Parisian decadence without travelling on Eurostar. I will be featuring the Wallace Collection gardens soon in The Secret Gardens of Marylebone Part II.
If you would like to know more, why not join me on a free Garden of the Quarter walking tour on Wednesday 24 August 2016 at 1pm for the Baker Street Quarter Partnership which will include visits to both Portman and Manchester Square Gardens.
Bryanston Square was laid out in the late Georgian period (the early 1800s) and some of its orginal terraced housing remains on its east side.
The most notable feature of the garden is its magniciently tall and cathedral like London Plane trees. The trees, so called as they are commonly found throughout Greater London, are very popular as they have a resilience to pollution. For more information about the trees see A Short Guide to the London Plane.
Bryanston Square Garden
All the garden squares all have their own special, unique features. I loved discovering these brightly coloured elephants in the children's play area.
Montagu Square was built as Bryanston Square's twin, although they are not identical. The gardens are narrow and oblong rather than square and laid out with lawn with some mature trees.
Montagu Square Garden
The garden has some nice features including a small rose garden.
If you visit look out for the blue plaque at 34 Montagu Square. This was the former home of three of The Beatles Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and John Lennon as well as Jimi Hendrix, although they did not all live there at the same time!
Dorset Square is north of the Marylebone Road and is another square dating from the late Georgian period. Originally known as Doset Fields this was where Thomas Lord opened his first cricket ground in 1787 and the M.C.C. (Marylebone Cricket Club) was formed. The site was vacated in 1811.
Dorset Square Garden
Both the garden and the surrounding buildings have been little altered since the area was first developed. It is an attractive open space with a small wooden shelter as its focal point. It is planted with mature trees and shrubs and there is a circuit walk around the lawned area.
The Secret Gardens of Marylebone Part II will be posted soon and will focus on the gardens which are open to the general public.
If you would like to know more, why not join me on a free Garden of the Quarter walking tour on Wednesday 22 July 2015 at 1pm for the Baker Street Quarter Partnership which will include visits to both Portman and Manchester Square Gardens.
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds