This is one of London’s oldest formal squares, just to the south of Oxford Street, and usually, the sort of park only used by locals who know about it, but soon to get a lot busier.
Hanover Square was developed shortly after the accession of the first Georgian monarch, King George I in 1714, which gave the square its name. The farmland, on the edge of London, was developed into upmarket housing, mainly on behalf of Richard Lumley, 1st Earl of Scarbrough between 1713-21.
As such it attracted the political classes most closely associated with the monarch, so much so that the architectural historian Sir John Summerson noted that “early Hanover Square was decidedly Whig and most decidedly military”. The site of the park may have been military at one point in the past, as a study by Smith & Kelsey in 1996 suggests that London’s lost civil war fortifications may have run through the site where the park is today. Although another study by David Sturdy in 1975 suggests it was further to the south. It’s not entirely clear where they were alas.
Originally known as Hanover Square Street, it later became simple Hanover Square, and although a few of the early 18th-century buildings still survive around the park, it’s mainly modern offices now. That’s mainly a legacy of WW2 which saw a lot of the older buildings demolished, and replaced over the years by progressively larger office blocks.
With the eventual opening of the Elizabeth line, Hanover Square is getting a makeover as it sits right next to one of the station’s new entrances, and that means a lot of people who would have arrived at Bond Street will leave the station right in front of Hanover Square. Surrounded by a road ever since it was created, the western side is to be pedestrianised, and that creates a large paved plaza between the garden and the Elizabeth line entrance to Bond Street tube station.
The park had been ringed with a high hedge, which while protecting the park from traffic noise also acted as a significant barrier to encouraging people into the park. The hedge is still there but has been stripped back to open up the park visually, and new railings installed around the park.
There used to be a cross-shaped tarmac path running through the middle of the park, meeting in the middle, and this has been replaced with a ring around the edges of the park leaving open a wide lawn in the centre and raised beds in granite walls.
Removing the cross-walkway means the park is less useful as a crossing point, but the addition of much wider pavements around the outside should help to alleviate that issue.
The water feature that was added during the revamp has fallen into the problem that seems to affect water features added to parks elsewhere in recent years – the need to add a shabby note warning that the water is not for drinking.
A bit of heritage, other than the old trees, is the statue of William Pitt the Younger at the southern end of the park – looking down St George Street. The road was laid out at the same time as the rest of the estate and if you look carefully you might notice that it’s much wider next to the park and narrows as it gets further south.
That was deliberate, as it creates a grand perspective to look at from the bottom of Hanover Square. At least, it will again when the pile of sheds that are in the way at the moment are removed.