A large swathe of lawn and seating next to St Paul’s Cathedral looks like it’s part of the Cathedral grounds, but is actually owned by the City of London.
The pocket park is the result, in part of the attention of German bombs which cleared so much of the land of its former buildings, and the arrival of the Festival of Britain. There were a number of Festival Gardens built in London and across the UK to celebrate the event, and this one was provided by the City of London as its contribution.
Opened in 1951, it was designed by the architect Sir Albert Richardson, who also happened to later go on to design Bracken House which is just over the road from the park.
It’s designed to look like a sunken lawn, although that’s a slight optical illusion as the pavement around it was raised up, so the lawn is pretty much at street level.
The cost of the garden wasn’t included in the City of London’s budget for the Festival of Britain as it was intended to be a permanent addition to the city, unlike their other temporary works.
Other contributions came from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, who provided the wall fountain at the western end of the gardens. Have a look around the back of the fountain as there is a small plaque marking the spot where a lost road ran, the fabulously Victorian looking shopping street, Old Change. To the east was all shops and offices before the war, and to the west of the plaque was a main road.
Now it’s all a public park.
Something that’s been covered over and was in the middle of that lost road was what looked like a roundabout, but shows up on Goad’s Insurance Maps as a “glass light to vaults”, which sounds amazing.
A couple of additions to the garden since it was completed are the statues of The Young Lovers, add in 1973 and in 2012, the bust of the poet, John Donne.
Its proximity to St Paul’s Cathedral means that it’s usually very busy during the summer months full of visitors having a break, especially if they’ve just climbed to the top of the dome.